My dear friends, I would like to express my thanks and appreciation to all of you for coming out this evening for this Compassionate Healer’s Mass and for joining in this time of prayer and praise of God. Sickness and the disruption it brings are a very big part of our human lives.
I attended the Pilgrimage last month in Kronau. And for those of you who have attended pilgrimages, you know that the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is always a part of the Mass. In the past at such occasions I would remind people that this Sacrament is for people who are dealing with a serious illness, something that disrupts their lives. And then when the Sacrament of the Sick is given, everyone who is there comes up to be anointed. It taught me just how much people’s lives are disrupted and threatened by sickness. It reminded me how much we all seek healing in our lives. So I don’t give the instruction any more.
The heart of Jesus teaching is the Kingdom of God. We should not be too surprised that Jesus’ proclamation that the Kingdom of God is at hand was most often accompanied by the healing of sick people. When Jesus sent out the Seventy disciples to visit the towns that he himself was coming to, St. Luke says that Jesus he told them: “cure the sick who are there and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
This does raise some questions. What is the connection between sickness and the Kingdom of Heaven? Why did Jesus spend so much time in healing peoples’ lives? Sickness, disabilities, infirmities are everywhere. Jesus could not possibly set out to rid the world of sickness, for it is a part of human life. To be healed is wonderful for the one who is healed, but what about the immense crowds of sick people who are not healed? Are they just losers or do they have a special part of God’s plan as well?
When we become ill, we pray to be healed. Yet we know that our prayers for healing are not always answered by our being restored to health. What is going on here?
That’s not an easy question to answer. But we know that since Jesus so clearly linked our illnesses and disabilities and our suffering to the nearness of the Kingdom of God, we wonder what the connection is. We do know that this passing world in which we live is a life made up of sickness which eventually leads to our dying. That centuries old prayer to Mary, the “Salve Regina”, the “Hail, Holy Queen” expresses this reality in these words: “to thee to we cry, poor banished children of Eve, to thee do we sigh, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.”
So, in looking for answers to these deep questions, we can say that the Kingdom of God is not this world in which we live, Even though there is much good and beauty in this earthly world.. Because of our faith, we know that. This world is not the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God or the place where the Father’s House can be found. In this world we will not find the place that Jesus has prepared for us in the Father’s House.
The Book of Revelation says this of the Kingdom which Jesus proclaimed and through his Word continues to proclaim to us:
See, the home* of God is among mortals. He will dwell* with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;*4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’
That is not a description of this present world. We do live in an age where many people think that this world is the Kingdom of Heaven. There is now no need for God or the way of life that Jesus teaches us.
I was talking with my sister who attended two weddings this weekend, children of good friends of hers. In each wedding one of parties was a Catholic. Neither wedding took place in a Church. In both weddings there was no mention of God at all. Like many of our young people who have been seduced by the addictive promises of a secular world, these young people seem to have abandoned a way of living that they were taught since they were children.
Fr. Ron Rolheiser, a renowned spiritual writer, wrote that Secularism is a powerful and addictive drug for it promises heaven on earth, life without rules or responsibilities. But Heaven is found only in Heaven and our world and life in this world it is not heaven. And the one thing that demonstrates that is the one thing that is a part of every person’s life. That is sickness and death.
So Jesus reached out to the sick, because illness and infirmity are the truest sign, the truest image of life without God. Life without God gives us the same thing that sickness gives us: fear, uncertainty, confusion – all those things that take hold of us when we get sick.
Jesus came into this world to tell us we are being saved from this world. He proclaim the Kingdom of God, where God makes all things of this world new. The sign he gave us that this Kingdom is at hand and we are invited to be a part of it is found in those acts of healing that accompanied the proclamation of that Kingdom.
We are called to share in that work of announcing to our world, and to our children and grandchildren, that this Kingdom is at hand, and it is a kingdom where people are healed, all people and not just a few and where all have been given life which is full and over which death has no power.
Since Jesus time, the Church has made care of the sick its priority. In the Acts of the Apostles, St.Luke tells us that Peter’s first act of evangelizing, of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus, was to heal a beggar. And so today we continue this ministry to the sick: we pray for healing of the lives around us and for ourselves. We pray for the coming of that Kingdom. Every time we say the Lord’s Prayer which is most likely every day, we pray to the Father “Thy Kingdom come…”
As we visit the sick and give them comfort we are professing our faith in Jesus Christ that the Kingdom of God is real, more real than this world which is passing away. As we accompany the sick, touching their lives with Jesus’ love and giving them comfort, we are showing to everyone around us that we believe what Jesus promised to all who believe in him: all will be healed, all will be made whole, death will be conquered and what lies ahead is life, eternal life.
This is a life which takes its energy and vitality from the One who has conquered death by his death on the cross: Jesus the Saviour who has gained for us the gift of eternal love and unending beauty in the life we will live with him forever.