World Day of the Sick with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick
February 11, 2020
Isaiah 61:1-3; James 5:13-16; Matthew 11:25-30
In his letter to the Church for this year’s World Day of Prayer of the Sick which we celebrate today, Pope Francis invites us to reflect in particular on the words of Jesus proclaimed just a moment ago in today’s gospel.
The Holy Father reminds us to keep before our minds and hearts precisely whom Jesus was addressing with these words. “When Jesus says this,” Pope Francis notes, “he has before him the people he meets every day on the streets of Galilee: very many simple people, the poor, the sick, sinners, those who are marginalized. … These people always followed him to hear his word, a word that gave hope!” And why were these burdened souls so disposed to Jesus’ words? Because “they realize that they depend entirely on God and, beneath the burden of their trials, stand in need of his healing.”
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest,” In sharing these words, Jesus is speaking to you – today – here in our cathedral. He’s speaking words of invitation, of hope and of promise. He makes no demands of you. Nor does he measure your worthiness or your past. Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus “embraces people in their entirety … discarding no one, but rather inviting everyone to share in his life and to experiences his tender love.”
Now let’s reflect a bit more on Jesus’ words. … He begins with an invitation. “Come, all you who are burdened and suffering and I will give you rest.” … Notice that as he invites us to come to him, Jesus in no way attempts to whitewash or trivialize the struggles of our lives. He doesn’t say that if you pray, you’ll never have a cross to carry or a burden to bear. That wasn’t the case for Jesus as he prayed the night before he died that the cross might pass him by. … He simply says, when you have nowhere else to turn – when you no longer know what to do with the burden that you’re carrying or the pain that you’re enduring – “come to me” and I will give you the rest you seek.
Nor does Jesus in anyway state that our struggles and pain are somehow the result of misguided choices or actions on our parts that we deserve. He simply says, “Come.” … And why? … Because like so many of us who struggle and are unable to understand why, Jesus experienced life as we know it, with it joys and sadness, its disappointments and suffering. He was a good and innocent man who surely didn’t deserve to endure the cross that he carried. But he carried it nonetheless, believing that somehow and for some reason, his life and his cross were a part of his Father’s plan for the salvation of the world. … And through that very cross, we find our hope and our peace – even amid the crosses we carry.
What a special gathering this is in our cathedral today – a moment of prayer that has the power to touch our lives profoundly. … Jesus is present. And your very presence here today reflects the great message of how God works so powerfully in our world and how he responds to us in our pain and suffering.
We bring to this moment hope and a prayer for something more – for something better – for an end to pain – for healing – and for the lifting of the crosses that we carry, don’t we? … It hardly warrants being said that all of us seek a life of peace, free from pain – free to engage our world as we choose, unencumbered by disabilities or restrictions of time and space. None of us wants to see those we love and care for burdened in any way. … None of us wants to suffer. … Neither did Jesus.
So Jesus invites us to receive his healing grace. Pope Francis encourages us at this moment to be open to Jesus’ presence. “In this home, you will meet people who, healed in their frailty by God’s mercy, will help you bear your cross and enable your suffering to give you a new perspective. You will be able to look beyond your illness to a greater horizon of new light and strength for your lives.”
My brothers and sisters, believe that Jesus is true to his word. … Say “yes” to his invitation to come to him with your burdens to find consolation and peace. … Through the wonderful Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, every one of you who approaches it with faith and hope will be healed. … Some may experience a physical healing. … All will encounter the Lord Jesus who promises to touch our hearts and give rest to our spirits.