13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24
Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13 (2a)
2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15
July 1, 2018
Today we hear of Jesus doing two great healings. One is for a twelve-year-old girl who, by the time Jesus’ arrives at the home, has “died”. The other is for the woman suffering hemorrhaging for twelve years.
In both cases we see great faith. In the case of the girl, her father, Jairus, has shown a great faith in coming to Jesus. He is a synagogue official, many of whom have rejected Jesus but he went and fell at the feet of Jesus to plead for his help. He believed if Jesus laid his hands on her, she would be healed.
Likewise, the woman has faith that if she just touched Jesus’ clothes, she would be healed. They are both right. In both cases, Jesus touches them at the time of their healing.
Touch is a powerful thing. For the woman who had been hemorrhaging, she would have been considered unclean so it would not have been permitted to touch her. Imagine being that way for twelve years.
Now, some people are very affectionate and love to hug. Others are more shy or quiet and not eager to touch. Yet, with people we know closely, most people like physical signs that show people care for them.
Jesus healed many people of physical ailments. We hear of these miracles in the gospels. I suspect most of us today have not experienced or witnessed a great physical healing but it does happen. Whenever a saint is canonized two miracles (one when they are declared blessed and one for their canonization) must be attributed to their intercession. Most of these miracles are physical healings that are carefully investigated to make sure they are not cured by medical treatment and, thus, truly are a miracle.
When we are seriously ill, our Catholic faith offers us a sacrament that includes touch. It is the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. For centuries it was known as Extreme Unction or Last Rites. With that understanding, it was administered only when death was thought to be very near.
In the 20th century, even before the Second Vatican Council, archeology and recovering of ancient documents revealed that the early understanding was that this sacrament was not just for the dying but all those who were seriously ill. We see this in James 5:14, “Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with the oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up.” (presbyters = priests).
So, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick was again opened to those who are seriously ill. (There are specific prayers that can still be done when death is near). This includes any terminal diagnosis or serious surgeries, especially when there is risk for life or further serious complications.
The Sacrament includes the anointing with oil blessed by the bishop. The oil serves as a sign of God strengthening the person. It also involves the priest touching the person, reminding us of Jesus’ touch.
Every person anointed by the priest does not receive a physical healing but people have spoken to me about it easing their pain and/or given them a great sense of peace. That’s God’s grace. That’s the grace of the sacrament.