Dear Friends in Christ,
Sickness, tragedy and death are unwelcome, sobering realities. They make us feel vulnerable, needy and often desperate. They can also overwhelm, crush and even break us. This was the experience of Jairus, the ruler of the Capernaum synagogue. Indeed, so desperate was he that he fell as if in prayer at Jesus’ feet. As John Bunyan once said: ‘The best prayers have often more groans that words.’
The same homage was given by the woman who was suffering from a bleeding disorder – some mind of haemophilia, we can presume. She was satisfied with merely touching the hem of Jesus’ garment: ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ Her faith is remarkable. Sickness bring us into the harsh reality of human existence: we understand our limitations, we come into contact with our own frailty and we sense our own mortality. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, ‘Every illness can make us glimpse death.
Sickness also creates its own special temptations. On the one hand, we can be inclined to give into anguish, self-loathing, despair and even rebellion against God. On the other, suffering can make us more mature and patient both with ourselves and others It can also refine and focus our search for God and be the cause of a deeper turning back to God and the gospel. In Salvifici doloris Pope St. John Paul II said that ‘each person in a special fashion becomes the way for the Church when suffering enters their lives.’ (para 3).
God has a preferential love for the sick. They are, if you like, his VIP’s. Jesus identified himself with the sick when he said, ‘I was sick and you visited me’ (Matt. 25:36). Through his passion and death he made their suffering his own. In the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, Jesus continues to touch us in order to heal us. This anointing is not just for those on their death-bed but for everyone whose health is seriously impaired by sickness and old age. Don’t be shy or reluctant in seeking this blessing: throw yourselves on your knees, touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and receive the sacrament of healing.