11 JULY 2011

I am very pleased to know of the existence of this group dedicated to prayer for healing.  I thank you for your prayers for all those who need healing, which is all of us.  For we all need the gentle love of Christ to come and touch us and heal our hearts and bathe our wounds and bandage us and give us peace and consolation in our times of pain and sorrow and desolation.  I thank God for your leaders who give generously of their time to make sure that these meetings take place and take place regularly and take place effectively.

I usually go to Knock and Lourdes a couple of times a year.  One of the outstanding features of such a pilgrimage is the Anointing of The Sick and the Blessing of the Blessed Sacrament.  One thing that always strikes me most powerfully is the reverence and faith of the people as they pray earnestly to the Lord, to come to them and to help them and to heal them.  I have a friend who prays a lot and studies the scriptures a lot.  He never ceases to lament the fact that the Church seems to have forgotten that it has the power to heal.  He reasons and argues it this way:  When He was here Jesus went around helping and healing.  As He was about to leave He told His disciples to carry on His work and to go and make disciples of all nations.  We believe that He was commissioning them to carry on His work.  In fact the church believes that it is now the Body of Christ, in the world, to continue His work and also to bring people to Christ that they may be helped and healed.  Of course there was only one thing that Jesus asked of those who came to Him to be helped and healed.  He always asked did they believe?  Did they believe that He could in fact carry out this healing?  So, then we begin by asking the Lord to increase our faith, out faith in Him and His power.  To increase our faith in His Church as His body, chosen and commissioned by Him to carry out His work, including His work of healing the sick.

Today is the Feast of Saint Benedict.  Benedict was a Monk.  In fact he was the founder of the monasteries in this part of the world.  This area around Drogheda is and was famous for its monasteries.  Just think of Monasterboice and Mellifont – Collon where people have gone to spend their lives dedicated to praising God.  The Monks, especially the followers of Saint Benedict, are famous for their healthy style of living.  They strike a great balance between work and prayer, rest and recreation.  Their motto is Work and Pray.  The monastery is usually out in the countryside where you enjoy the beauty of nature, sample the fresh air and take some exercise.  All of which the experts tell us help to make us healthy.

So we decided to keep the Readings of the Feast of Saint Benedict for this Mass because I feel there are many ideas which could help us.  The first one that struck me was the Response the Responsorial Psalm, “Taste and see that the Lord is good”.  It is an invitation to think about our own lives and our own experience.  If we do so for some time and in a serious way we are bound to think about the fact of life itself and where does it come from?  What is life for? Our life on earth will end, that is for sure, but there are followers of Christ who rose from the dead.  We believe that death is not the end and if we think a little about Christ we will see why He came into this world.

The words “taste and see that the Lord is good” come from one of the Psalms.  The Psalms were the Great Prayer Book of the Jewish people.  They were the prayers used by the Holy Family Jesus, May and Joseph.  When the Jews reflected on their experience of God, they found that they had so much to thank God for – the gift of life and love.  They usually thanked God for His goodness in creating them in the first place – God did not need them.  He could do without them.  They thanked God for His mercy.  God, they found, to be slow to anger, rich in mercy and ready to forgive those who asked His pardon.  The last thing they praised and thanked God for was His faithfulness.  They found that while they might be, and often were, unfaithful God was always faithful.  It was great consolation.

As followers of Jesus Christ we have all that to be thankful for, and much more besides.  So, I invite you also to taste and see that God is good.  We have Jesus to thank God for.  For God so loved the world that He sent His son Jesus to reveal His love for us, by dying on the cross.  

Jesus departed this life and ascended to the Right Hand of the Father, where he pleads for us.  He then sent the Holy Spirit to remind us of all that he – Jesus – had said and done.  But the Jewish prayer was also full of petition and imploring God’s mercy and help.  We continue that tonight as we beg for healing for ourselves and for those we love.

My eye caught another phrase in the First Reading which is, “My Son if you take my words to heart you will discover the knowledge of God”.  Note it talks of taking the words of God into the heart, not just to head.  The heart is the place of decision.  Only if the words of God reach down into our hearts will they be effective in changing lives and healing our hearts.

The First Reading continues “If you take my words to heart, if you set store by my commandments, then you will understand what virtue is, justice, and fair dealing, all of them are ways that lead to happiness”.  All of the rest – listening to the words, respecting the commandment virtue, justice and fair dealing.  All of these are roads that lead to happiness.

By His bruises we are healed.  I love that phrase from the Prophet Isaiah.  We hear it on Good Friday, when the prophecy was fulfilled, when Jesus was not only bruised and broken but actually nailed to the Cross, where He died for love of us.  He did all of that out of love.  It is His love which gave the bruises he suffered, their power to heal us and take away our sins and our guilt.  But His love did more than that, it gave Him the power, not only to be attentive to the needs of those around, but even to forgive those who put Him to death.  “Father forgive those for they know not what that do”.  But remember His answer to the good thief who asked to be remembered and Jesus responded “This day you will be with me in paradise”.  We must have the same sort of confidence as that God – the confidence that believes that the same Christ is present in the Eucharist who went about healing.  The same Christ is active in the Sacrament of the Anointing of The Sick.  Every time we receive a Sacrament we meet Christ and we say “Remember me”.