At the beginning of Lent, I attended our parish mission. A parish mission can be thought of as a time for the parish to rekindle zeal and grow in faith, especially during special liturgical seasons (like Lent!). We usually bring in Franciscan Friars of the Renewal to lead our parish mission, which for us occurs over the course of three consecutive evenings (not every parish mission is done the same). This year we had Fr. Juan Diego–Canadian by birth, beard by choice. And then there was Fr. John Anthony, who is still a toddler priest since he was ordained sometime after Rio last summer (because I met him in Rio since he was with that other Texas group we happened to share the hostel with, and he was only a deacon then).
They covered three different topics each of the night. The first one was on the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. The second night was on Confession. The third night was on healing.
Of all the three days, the third one stood out to me the most.
Fr. Juan Diego gave the talk, and he began by reading from the Gospel about the hemorrhaging woman
. She suffered some sort of blood flow illness for twelve years, but had heard that Jesus was nearby. Knowing that He could heal and perform miracles, she made the effort, in faith, to get near Him. While He was teaching, she touched His garment or a part of His garment, and upon doing so, His power flowed and healed the woman. Jesus, noticing that power had gone forth from Him, asks the crowd, “Who touched me?” and the woman tells Him the truth. He says to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
After reading this account from the Gospel, Fr. Juan Diego carried on with his talk. He recounted various stories in his life as a friar where people recognized their need for healing. One particular experience he had was rather gut wrenching. When he was newly ordained as a priest, he was assigned to go to Central America. Upon arrival, he got to know a beautiful family with many kids. One tragic day, one of the youngest, Francisco, was run over by a bus. The family was utterly devastated, and Fr. Juan Diego was called upon by the family to pray, to counsel, and to help with the burial process. Not only that, but he had to deal with the families on both sides of the tragic accident including the bus driver and his family. In telling us this, Fr. Juan Diego made the point that God allows bad things to happen so that a greater good can come out of it. Inevitably, the question, “Why, God, why?!” comes up. While I won’t discuss the problem of evil
, the point is that even though bad things happen, it ultimately points back towards God. We can respond in despair or seek healing. The reality is that we’re going to suffer at some point. The question is…how do I deal with it? Do I let God help me through it? Or do I cast Him aside?
I wish I can convey the cohesiveness and fullness of Fr. Juan Diego’s explanation of these stories that he told to illustrate the need for healing, but it’s one of those, “you had to be there!” sort of things.
The last part was the procession. Before explaining that, I’ve mentioned in other blog posts how Catholics believe that the Eucharist, under the appearance bread, is really, truly Jesus Christ present: body, blood, soul, and divinity. Each of the nights, during the friars’ talks, we had Jesus exposed in the monstrance (the gold thing, Spanish “mostrar” means “to show”…see the etymology, kind of?). This last night of the mission, we had a special kind of Eucharistic procession that really brings to life the account in the Gospel with the hemorrhaging woman. We become the woman in all our brokeness, our sickness, and our need for healing. In this kind of procession, the priest walks from person to person while holding the monstrance containing Eucharist. He is cloaked in a humeral veil to cover his hands, and this physically signifies (which points to the spiritual reality) that it isn’t the priest who is walking around from person to person, but rather Jesus Himself. As He goes from person to person, we have the opportunity to “touch His cloak” like the bleeding woman in the Gospel.
I was one in of the first few groups of people-in-the-pews to approach the altar rail of our sanctuary where Fr. Juan Diego was processing with Jesus. But of course I was moved because I really prayed about something where I needed healing (future blog post(s), maybe). When I returned to my pew, I reflected on how much I need the healing love of Christ, and in a very tangible way, I experienced this opportunity to allow Him to heal me.
Apart from the very real, truly personal effect of this Eucharistic procession for me, I was probably more intrigued at seeing everyone else have this opportunity to touch His cloak. Like I said, I was one of the first few groups of people to do so, therefore I got to glance up every now and then and see others experience Jesus as healer. I could tell by the look on many of their faces that they really needed this. Some were in tears…many had solemn faces (not in a sad, depressing way)…and some had a look of joy! Now, I don’t know each person’s story, but over and over again, seeing everyone’s response after they touched His cloak really drove home that we all have this very real need for healing for our sufferings.
Obviously, when I’ve got bronchitis or some other sickness, I’ll go to the doctor (maybe that happened once…or thrice…). When I have chipped my tooth, busted up my face, and potentially suffered a concussion, I’ll go to the ER and dentist (maybe that happened once…). When I’m suffering in these physical ways, I obviously don’t want to let it keep bothering me or causing me to suffer. I will go seek help to get healed. I mean, that’s not an unreasonable response, right? Not only that, but I obviously wouldn’t go to my podiatrist to give me a root canal. My doctor probably wouldn’t be able to give me a prescription for my contacts. In other words, when I’m dealing with certain ailments and problems, I’ll go to the correct person to help heal that problem.
So what about when I’m sick on the inside? This totally happens from time to time where I suffer in a way that isn’t physical yet my mind is clear but heart is troubled. Who can help heal me when the problem isn’t necessarily something tangible that a normal doctor can heal? How can I have a restored sense that I’m genuinely loved? How do I break away from despair, from sadness, from hopelessness? How can I endure all my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual sufferings? To whom shall I go?
The hemorrhaging woman knew.