Diocese of Clogher
The Lourdes Grotto Mass
Friday, 8 July, 8.30am
My brother Bishop, brother priests and dear friends,
Jesus Christ healed many people during his ministry. Some were healed instantly, some with a word, some with a little ritual like the laying on of hands or the spit and clay described in the Gospel of to-day’s Mass. Some were healed in stages like the blind man who saw only gradually as people first looked like trees and then real. Some were healed only after a little sparring like the Phoenician woman with the quick tongue who wouldn’t take an initial refusal and some only after many years like the man at the pool of Siloam.
Many people were instruments or bridges that facilitated the healing. The crippled man’s friends lowered him through the rooftop. The friends mentioned in today’s Gospel brought the deaf man to Jesus. Mary was the person who rescued the people at the wedding feast in Cana by asking her son to use his power.
Some were healed at a distance like the Roman centurion’s servant. Some were healed in spirit like the tax collector Zaechaeus or the Samaritan woman at the well. Some were not healed. Mark says bluntly in his gospel that this was because they did not believe. Faith and trust are elements in all healing.
There is a sense in which we can all share in the healing ministry of Jesus just as his mother Mary did. We all have the capacity to lighten a burden, share a sorrow, speak a word of comfort and hope and maybe in this way help to heal a heart. Healing can happen quickly in unusual places and in ways that we do not expect. John was one of those strong self-reliant men who rarely express their emotions outwardly. One night he had to rush his wife into hospital for emergency surgery. The operation was successful but the woman’s condition deteriorated. Despite blood transfusions and intensive care she continued to weaken. The doctor was puzzled because by all medical standards she should have been recovering. In the end he came to the conclusion that the reason for her deterioration was that she was not trying to get well.
The surgeon, who had known the couple for years, went to her bedside and said “Would you not want to get better for John’s sake?” She replied weakly, “John is so strong he doesn’t need anybody”. The surgeon called John to his office and told him what his wife had said. John went immediately to his wife’s room, took her hand in his and said “You’ve got to get well”. Without opening her eyes, she asked “Why”. “Because I need you” he replied.
At this point, the nurse who was monitoring the blood transfusion said she noticed an immediate change in the woman’s pulse rate. She opened her eyes and said “John, that’s the first time you ever said that to me”. Two weeks later she was recovering at home. Commenting on the case the surgeon said it wasn’t merely the blood transfusion that made the difference but his declaration of his need for her. Her importance to someone she loved made the difference between life and death for that woman. The husband did not bid her to “arise and walk” but his words were every bit as effective in healing her.
Lourdes is a place we associate with Bernadette Soubirous and with Our Lady since 1858. From the Rock of Massabielle Bernadette heard a “noise like a gust of wind.” For fifteen days she had conversations with Our Lady and passed on instructions for a chapel to be built where people could come in procession. In this way began the tradition of pilgrimage to Lourdes. Pilgrims from all walks of life – old, young, sick and healthy – have been meeting here for 150 years. To date 66 miraculous cures have been recognised by the Catholic Church and thousands more have found joy and peace. We feel here in a special way the presence of God and in the sacred grounds of the Grotto we feel the smile of Mary and the peace which she shared with so many.
We rejoice in the miraculous cures which have taken place here. These are the dramatic ones which make the news, and they are rare. We acknowledge too the far more common acts of healing which are always within our reach. Not only that but we remind ourselves that we can be the instruments of such healing. Words like
‘I need you. I love you. I am here for you,” or the gestures like the pat on the back, the phone call, the presence, the visit (like Our Lady’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth) – these are all within our power. They are not the dramatic stories of Scripture or of miracles but they can lead to real experiences of healing
We have all received the Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation. The healing ministry of Jesus is in our hands. The love which Jesus Christ taught us and which Mary his mother witnessed to in her life – if we allow it to take root in our minds and hearts we can bring much healing to those who need it.
+Liam S. MacDaid
8 July 2011