Fr John Dunne, SMA Provincial Leader, celebrated the Mass and delivered the homily at the seventh night of the Annual Novena in honour of Our Lady (Thursday, 23 May 2013). During the Mass the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick was also celebrated. Fr John spoke about this sacrament, taking as his theme of ‘Our Lady, Help of the Sick’.
We come together to ask for healing for ourselves or for someone dear to us who is ill at this time. We ask for healing for those who are burdened in any way at this time. We are conscious this evening of people who carry the burden of worry, stress, anxiety about the past, fear of the future or the unknown, physical or mental strain. We all know individuals or families who have one or many of these burdens to bear and so we can include them in our healing prayer this evening and ask for relief and healing through the intercession of Mary our Mother. We include those whose petitions are here before the altar. We pray for all through the intercession of Mary, who was no stranger to sickness, stress and anxiety. We believe she will understand and accept our prayers for healing.
In this year of faith we renew and proclaim our faith but asking in prayer for the gift of healing. Faith is about trusting when there is no logical reason for trusting; it is our willingness to put ourselves in the hand of another or a higher power when our own resources are not able to provide answers or the help needed. Our prayer can be simple like that of Mary herself. She said “the almighty has done great things for me, holy is his name”.
Call to mind for a moment the familiar scene of a little child who is bouncing around playing with friends; suddenly the child trips and falls. A scratched knee, a bruised elbow, a grazed forehead and then lots of tears. The child immediately runs to Mammy or Daddy or they come to the rescue. Then the panic, the stress, the fear in the little child is quickly dissipated when his mammy arrives. It is in her that the child feels secure and the healing comes from the presence of a known adult. The final healing takes place when the adult kisses the painful or wounded limb. Then very quickly the child is back playing and enjoying, healed and secure. What changes the world is simple.
First, the crisis and anxiety were caused by the fall and, secondly, the healing or safety was brought about by the parent who touches sooths and kisses the wounded child. I am sure you have been at some time been both the injured child and the healing adult.
Think now about what happens to us when faced with unexpected, unusual and often unwanted events. We are knocked off balance, we become frightened and we imagine the worst. Panic! At a time like that we need someone to hold us, to assure us and to heal us.
We have received the Spirit individually. As we gather here this evening we are a Spirit filled group or community. What a privileged place to be! The gifts of the Spirit are many and one of those is HEALING. We have that gift and we can use it. Do you believe this?
Mary was present at many of the healing miracle wrought by Jesus. She lived through her own crises, stresses and strains. She understands us when we are in trouble, or pain or suffering. She wants to help us now in 2013 as much as she was attentive to those who needed her during her lifetime. There is ample testimony to the power of her intercession from people who have received favours such as relief or freedom from personal stress, strain or worry, from addictions, and illness of different kinds. The miracle does happen.
This evening we come together to pray for healing before the anointing of the sick. I invite you to choose to open your minds and hearts to the possibility of healing happening when you pray. It will not happen until we are ready to allow it. Take courage and with Mary pray for healing for the person or people or situations which need the touch of a healing hand.
Now for a few moments I invite you to relax by closing your eyes; then take a deep breath and with your heart enter into the prayer of intercession with Our Lady. Believe that if you ask with faith you will receive. Repeat quietly, “Lord here I am before you with Mother Mary.” Repeat again.
Like Mary and Martha, when Lazarus was ill, we turn our minds to Jesus and quietly say, “Lord the one you love is sick, or worried or troubled. Now name the person or the situations you want to put into the healing presence of God. Do not demand a particular solution in this prayer, but in your heart say, “I trust that you will do the best and grant the gift of healing to those for whom I pray.” Now let your heart be fully in this prayer. Rest quietly like Mary and allow the miracle to happen without determining when.
The anointing with blessed oil is our way of touching and reaching out to the sick, the wounded and the stressed ones we love. Our prayer is the prayer of the church, of this community of faith gathered here this evening. It is therefore a powerful prayer. With Mary the help of the sick on our side our prayers will be heard.
Following the above reflection, those who wanted to were invited to approach one of the available priests for anointing, putting out their hands, praying and trusting. The Mass continued after the Anointing rite concluded.