Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
World Day of the Sick with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick
February 11, 2019
Isaiah 53:1-5,10-11; James 5:13-16; Matthew 10:7-15
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. … And your very presence here today reflects the great message of the scriptures that teach us so powerfully of the how God works in our world and how he responds to us in our pain and suffering.
Consider with me this moment of prayer. … Some of you are here today because you join us every day for the noon time 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 physically or emotionally with diminished health and also a day when we pray for those who serve and care for the sick. … And all of us, in gathering for this Mass, are called to a deeper understanding and expression of our faith through our encounter with God.
We bring to this moment a hope and prayer for something more – for something better – for an end to pain – for healing – 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 want to see those we love and care for burdened in any way. None of us want to suffer. … Neither did Jesus. The very night before he died, he prayed that the cross might pass him by.
And yet we know so very well from our faith that it didn’t. Jesus accepted the cross as a part of his Father’s will. He carried it. And through the power and mercy of God, that which was an instrument of Jesus’ torture and death gave way to life and resurrection.
When Jesus embraced the cross, illness and suffering were not removed from the human experience. Rather, by taking them upon himself, Jesus transformed them and gave them new meaning. Through Jesus’ resurrection, the agony of the cross gave way to God’s triumph over sin and death. As such, for us as Christians, our suffering and pain no longer have the final word. Instead, through faith in Jesus and the power of his resurrection, his selfless, redeeming love envelops us and gives us hope.
Today’s gospel passage from Saint Matthew finds Jesus commissioning the twelve apostles and sending them forth to proclaim the good news of salvation. “As you go,” Jesus instructed, “make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.’”
Pope Francis chose this passage for today’s mass. Focusing particularly upon Jesus’ instruction to his disciples to give generously, without counting the cost, the Holy Father notes that the joy of generous giving, rooted in Jesus’ very example and gift of himself on the cross, is a barometer of the health of a Christian.
Whether we ourselves are burdened with sickness or we find ourselves as care givers to those who suffer, Pope Francis reminds us that “each of us is poor, needy and destitute. When we are born, we require the care of our parents to survive, and at every stage of life we remain in some way dependent on the help of others. … A frank acknowledgment of this truth,” he states, “keeps us humble and spurs us to practice solidarity with one another as an essential virtue in life. … We should not fear, then to acknowledge these limitations … for in so doing, God comes to our aid and grants us gifts beyond our imagining.”
In turn, the Holy Father affirms that both those who provide for the sick as well as those who receive their generous care are all in a position to fulfill the gospel mandate to give generously from what they have received.
Pope Francis holds up for our consideration this day the joyful figure of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom he describes as a model of charity who made visible God’s love for the poor and the sick. “Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defense of human life, of those unborn and those abandoned and discarded … especially those who suffer.”
In short, the message of the day 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 faithful example and loving service, we give life to the words of Jesus, “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”
My sisters and brothers, 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 are 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.