Homily for March 14, 2010

Father Tom’s Homily
4th Sunday of Lent
March 14, 2010

Our delegation to our sister communities in El Salvador in 1994 included a doctor and a nurse practitioner. Our delegation included Kathy Fries, David Smith, Maureen Donofrio, Paula Ostrovsky and me.
It was the first time we were able to provide medical clinics for the people. The response was long lines each day at the clinics. For most of the people this was their first opportunity for a personal consultation with a medical professional.

One case involved a small child brought in the arms of a young couple. Maureen, the nurse practitioner, determined that the child had meningitis.
Since there was no medical system in Calavera, they had brought their child to the emergency room at the hospital in the city of San Miguel.
They said that they were given little attention there, probably because they were looked upon as backward rebels from the mountains. The prejudice against the mountain people who had held out against the government military forces for over ten years was still strong in the government-held cities.

By the time they came to our clinic, the child’s condition had become so severe that there was little that could be done for it.
By this time the child’s brain and muscular system was severely and permanently damaged. The little boy’s body hung limp in his father’s arms.
The child was permanently handicapped. If he were to live, he would be an extreme handicap to his poor campesino parents.

When Maureen and David explained their diagnosis, the couple’s eyes welled up with tears. Our clinic was their last hope of a possible remedy to their child’s sickness. All of us wept with them.
Then I gave the little boy the ancient sacrament of healing. It was a prayer for healing for the child and also for the mom and dad whose hearts were broken.
Like our shared tears, the anointing was a ritual of solidarity. It acknowledged that the parents were not alone in their tragedy. The five members of our delegation, the child’s family and their neighbors – and also the whole church were in loving support of this couple who felt so powerless and alone.
Through the ancient ritual of the laying on of hands and the anointing with a sacred oil, we placed this very sick child and the very sad parents and all of us into the hands of the Lord.
We trusted that Christ, ever our healer and our hope in times of trouble, would accomplish God’s loving purposes out of this sickness and our tears of grief.

God’s purposes are always for our wellbeing and salvation. But much of God’s loving plan remains a mystery to us in times of sadness and despair.
God’s response to our cries of brokenness and pain is always Jesus, who comes to share in our suffering.

This sacrament is an ancient ritual that places our broken bodies and hearts in the hands of Jesus the healer. Healing broken bodies, hearts and spirits was at the heart of Jesus’ work. He was a healer Messiah. He calls his followers to be healers too.
The whole world awaits healing. People everywhere experience some afflictions of mind, heart and body.
This sacrament is meant to awaken us to Jesus the healer who remains at our sides. It is also calling us to be healers of one another.

The anointing of that sick child in Calavera sixteen years ago was the first time I gave the anointing of the sick to anyone there. It woke me up to their need for this sacrament. Now I offer it at the Mass in each of the five settlements and almost everyone steps forward to receive it.
Today I offer it at this Mass and invite any of you to step forward to receive it. May we be a healed and healing community.