Archbishop Bernard Hebda Homily
World Day of the Sick 2020
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John:
There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect Me? My hour has not come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Now there were six stone jars there for the Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water,” and so they filled them to the brim. Then He told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” And so they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although they who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this at the beginning of His signs at Cana in Galilee, and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him. (John 2:1-11)
I’m so grateful to Curatio for the kind invitation to be the celebrant for this morning’s liturgy, to have the opportunity to gather not just with those who do Christ’s healing work or are instruments in His healing work in the health professions, but also to gather with the Knights of Malta. We are grateful for their presence and their organization today, and certainly for those of you who have come to pray for healing or pray for healing in the lives of your loved ones. Certainly, in proximity to the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, this is a propitious time for asking for the Lord’s great gift of healing. I apologize to some of you, who have heard me speak before about my own experience at Lourdes, and after my first year as a seminarian I worked there for a summer. I know it was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. Even though I wasn’t working in the sanctuary, I was working at a place for the poor in Lourdes sponsored by an equivalent of Catholic Charities. We would come down each evening with that beautiful Rosary procession. I came to know the sanctuary at Lourdes as being one of those really privileged places in all of the world, a place where we feel such a closeness not only to Mary, who revealed herself there to Bernadette, but to her Son and to her Son’s healing presence, healing power. It’s a place of great charity, a place of great fraternity as well, and a place of great feast.
I certainly, in my own life, found that that was a wonderful place to discern more fully my own vocation. I’ve always been so grateful to Our Lady of Lourdes for that gift to me that was working there that summer. One of the amazing things about Our Lady is that she always strives to draw us closer to her Son, but she also has such a compassionate heart. That’s what we heard about in the Gospel today – Mary’s concern about that couple and their embarrassment. They don’t have wine to serve their guests. It would have been the cardinal sin in a culture that is based on hospitality, yet Mary knew that Jesus would be the one who would be able to change that. But she also knew that that couple and those stewards and the apostles also needed to know who Jesus was and how great was His power and how great was His strength.
It’s amazing that Mary, as she appeared to St. Bernadette, chose someone who was so lowly, so humble – someone who had no status in the world. She wanted Bernadette, in the midst of her own poverty, to know of God’s closeness to her, and she did that by revealing her closeness to Bernadette, that she had great compassion for Bernadette. But it really wasn’t just for Bernadette; it was for all of us. She knew that Lourdes would be that place where we would come for healing, where we would come to experience the power of her Son. She hoped that would be a place where we would come to deepen in our faith. Mary always understood how she could bring together the faithful with her Son, Jesus. She who is indeed the Mother of the Church wants nothing more than for our Church to be a place where we feel the healing presence of Christ, and we give glory to God for what it is that Jesus is able to do in our lives.
For many of the people who come to Lourdes, it is not a physical feeling, but it’s a deepening of the faith that is there as we come to recognize how much our God loves us, how much Christ loves us, how much His mother, that mother that He gave to us from the cross, loves us, and she wants us to be healed. She wants us to know of Jesus’ presence in our lives. She wants us to be engaged in that lifelong work of conversion that draws us closer to the love that pours forth from her Son’s heart, that love that is the source of all healing in our lives.
I’m so delighted that there are so many here this day who are involved in that work of healing, who are involved in health care, who understand that those moments are opportunities for Jesus’ power to be felt, to be experienced – consoling power, comforting power, healing power. Certainly this day we pray for you and for your work, that you might always be those instruments of Christ’s presence. That’s certainly what we hope for, that we might be able to relay Christ in all that we do in a way that doesn’t call attention to ourselves, but rather calls attention to Christ and His desire to bring healing into our lives.
I’m so grateful for those of you who have come to pray for healing as well. We know that there are no limits on what our God is able to do. How many times do you hear in Sacred Scripture that nothing is impossible for God? We come with that same ability that was St. Bernadette’s. We ask that we might come to know the Lord’s presence in our lives and to pray for healing, if that is the key to the Lord’s will.
We have so many examples in Sacred Scripture of the Lord bringing that power of healing into the lives of those who were so in need. We know that the Lord is able to do that, and we ask Him to do whatever it takes to draw us closer to Him, to help us to believe in His love, to give us that wholeness that we need to be the Church that He desires, that we together as the Church might radiate His healing presence in a broken society.
So we pray this day for those who are caregivers; we pray this day for those who are sick; we pray this day for our Church.