World Day of the Sick with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick
February 10, 2021
Isaiah 35:1-10; James 5:13-16; Matthew 23:1-12

 What a special gathering this is in our cathedral today – a moment of prayer that has the power to touch our lives profoundly.  …  And why?  …  Because Jesus is among us.

Consider what we do today.  …  Some of you are here today because you join us every day for mass in our Cathedral.  …  Most of you are here because of what we celebrate this day in union with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and with Catholics from around the world – the World Day of the Sick – a day on which we offer special prayers for those who are burdened with diminished health and for those who serve and care for the sick.  …  And all of us are keenly aware of our need for the healing power of God in our lives as we continue to battle the effects of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

More than ever before, the pandemic that we are battling has caused us to realize our own vulnerability and need for others.  It has also prompted us to admit that for as capable a people as we have become, we are ultimately not in control of our future.  That belongs to God alone.

Pope Francis chose as the theme for this 29th World Day of the Sick this verse from Saint Matthew’s gospel:  You have but one teacher and you are all brothers (Mt 23:8).  The context for these words is taken from the gospel passage in which Jesus criticizes the hypocrisy of those who fail to practice what they preach.  In his rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus reminds us quite forthrightly that any authentic sense of fidelity to the gospel on our part is rooted far less in our ability to adhere to mere legal prescriptions or ritual observances and much more in our willingness to reflect in our own lives the life and ministry of Jesus.  As simple as it sounds, we do this best by serving our brothers and sisters – for their sake and not our own.  …  The greatest among you must be your servant (Mt 23:11).

In so many respects, the current health crisis that we face has enabled us to appreciate more than ever before that Jesus’ invitation to serve is extended to all of us, regardless of our situation or circumstance.  Pope Francis reminds us that “‘serving means caring for the vulnerable of our families, our society, our people.’  In this outreach, all are called to set aside their own wishes and desire, their pursuit of power, before the concrete gaze of those who are most vulnerable.”  The Holy Father is quick to point out, however, that there is a mutuality in this exchange between the infirm and those who provide for them in their need.  The sick and suffering generously serve their caregivers – and all of us – through their acknowledgement of the vulnerability of their lives, through their willingness to accept the crosses that have been laid upon them and through their witness of trust – in those who care for them and ultimately in the power of God.

In short, the message of today’s gospel and the heart of all that Jesus has called us to embrace as his followers is that we reflect his life in our own.  …  Whether we are sick and touch others by our willingness to endure suffering with dignity and faith – or – we are those who spend time with the sick and care for them in their needs, in going outside of ourselves through our service of one another, we give life to the presence of Jesus in our midst.

Brothers and sisters, through Jesus’ example of selfless love, we find the pattern for our life’s journey.  …  Through his cross and resurrection, we discover the path to salvation.  …  And through the wonderful Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, every one of us who approaches it with faith and hope is promised a share in Jesus’ healing love.  …  Some of us may experience a physical healing.  …  All of us will encounter the Lord Jesus who promises to touch our spirits and give us peace.