Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

What I Have Seen And Heard

By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published February 17, 2011

During the past couple of weeks the Gospel selections at daily Mass have provided us with a number of narratives of Jesus’ healing power and ministry. We begin each calendar year with quite a few examples of Jesus’ outreach to and care for the sick. One of the conclusive signs of the era of the Messiah according to Scripture would be the healing of the sick. This would be a powerful indicator of the messianic moment not only because illness was such a source of mystery for the ancients who lacked our medical sophistication, but because sickness remains a concern even in our sophisticated contemporary world. Knowing about an illness and being able to cure it remain a definite challenge for our world today—no less than in days past.

Throughout the history of our Church the healing of and the care for the sick are often identified with the very mission of Christ. Last week we celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, yet another reminder of the ministry of healing. This Marian apparition has given birth to one of the famous places in the world where the sick come for spiritual renewal, comfort and, if God so deigns it, for a physical healing.

Lourdes has been the site of many miraculous cures over the years, but even more numerous are the stories of spiritual healing and comfort that have come to the sick and to those who volunteer to serve them at Lourdes. Indeed that is often the case for those who minister to the sick—they themselves share in the healing comfort and hope that Christ accomplishes for others through them.

The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is a ritual prayer for comfort, healing and the forgiveness of sins. In its renewal, the Church has refocused its application on the sick people who seek Christ’s healing presence through this sacrament. For many older Catholics, it still may carry the name “Extreme Unction” or “The Last Rites” and be associated with those who are about to die. In renewing the liturgy of the sacrament, the Church recalls the mission of the Messiah to the sick and the tradition of comforting those who were seriously ill but not necessarily at the point of death. We should seek this sacrament for those in our midst who are sick and whose condition invites the healing ministry of Christ Himself ministered through His Church.

I urge all of our parishes to find opportunities to celebrate the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick as a part of their ordinary spiritual life. Those who have a serious but not necessarily life-threatening illness should celebrate this sacrament as a way of encountering the Lord Jesus in His ministry of healing and comforting the sick. He is, after all, the long awaited Messiah, and He has commissioned His Church to continue that tradition of caring for the sick and inspiring those who care for them.