2016 Novena – Mary, Health of the Sick

Fr John Horgan SMA preached at the 6th evening of the SMA Novena in honour of Our Lady at St Joseph’s SMA Church, Blackrock Road, Cork.

In the Hail Mary we ask Mary to pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. We have a tradition of invoking her intercession in all cases of trouble, sickness and death.

At the marriage in Cana of Galilee Mary noticed that the wine was running out so she asked Jesus to help. And we know he responded positively to her request and provided ample wine for the wedding. Jesus spent much of his public life healing people of their various illnesses. Very likely some of these healings were at the request of Mary. She still notices our human ailments and she intercedes with her son to heal these ailments. No wonder her shrines in places like Lourdes and Knock are thronged with pilgrims praying for healing either on behalf of others of on their own behalf. While many are blessed with physical cures and these cures are verified by a medical team. Many others do not receive a physical cure but they receive a deep peace and the grace to live with their illness in peace and serenity they did not have before.

This gift which enables physically sick people to live with a deep peace and serenity, we call spiritual healing. Spiritual healing is a great blessing. It is the gift of living through illness or other difficulties with a heart that is warm rather than cold, forgiving rather than bitter; It is the gift of being accepting of the situation we find ourselves in and of not feeling sickness or difficulties are a punishment by God; it is the gift of understanding that a trouble free life on earth is not an entitlement; it is also believing that we are saved by Christ’s suffering and death rather than by all his activity of preaching and working miracles; in other words when Christ was humanly powerless he saved us. As members of his body our human suffering and powerlessness are part of Christ’s passion and contribute to our own salvation and that of others. Spiritual healing helps us to be forgiving of ourselves of others and of the unfairness of life. All these gifts are great blessings when we are helpless in the face of an illness, or tragedy and when our death comes we will be able to hand over our life to God without any bitterness or regrets.

Mary was a daughter, a wife and a mother. In each of these roles she was called upon to be an ‘angel of mercy’ and a tower of strength in situations of suffering and death. Tradition tells us that she was at the death beds of both her parents Joakim and Anna and closed their eyes in death. Later on, she was present at the death of her beloved husband Joseph, accompanied by her son Jesus. And she walked every step of her son’s passion right up to his death in love and empathy. But she never uttered a bitter word during or after this trauma.

There will always be times in our life when someone or something will make demands on us; it may be grown up children who need us; or an ageing parent who has only us, a spouse with a long term illness or addiction, or our church looking for volunteers. We can become burdened by duties and feel we are victims while others are not pulling their weight. Spiritual health develops us into life giving individuals. And our love becomes genuinely Christ like when we are able to say: “nobody takes my love and service from me, I give it freely” and mean it.

But there were times in Mary’s life when she could do little more than be present with a heart full of love and empathy living the suffering of a loved one. A striking example of this was when Jesus cried out on the cross “my God my God why have you forsaken me?” As he cried out Mary was there standing at the foot at the foot of his cross, powerless to do anything but her presence was full of empathy and love which Jesus was aware of because of their closeness as a loving mother and son.  There will be times too in our lives when we can do little more for a loved one than just be present with them and for them.

Mary is an example for us in our personal struggles; she understands our struggles and is with us in these struggles. She experienced many difficult situations both in her own life and in the lives of those close to her so she can teach us to grow in spiritual and emotional health in the struggles of life and finally when we face our death.

After the Ascension she gathered the terrified disciples in prayer. Though their hopes were shattered Mary kept them together in prayer waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit. She knew that it would take the power of Holy Spirit of power to lift their spirits and empower them so that they could believe and commit themselves to living and witnessing to the message of her Son and even face death for doing so. Tradition tells she lived helping the community of St; John to grow and flourish.

What Mary did for others she will do for us she will be there when we need physical or spiritual healing; when we struggling with living a Christian life when we are able to do little more that be present to a loved one. Finally she will be there at the hour of our death as she was for her parents, Joakim & Anne, for Joseph and her son Jesus. She will help to banish all fear and help to die grateful for the lives we lived with divine help. Mary, health of the sick, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Fr John Horgan SMA – 25 May 2016