They came rolling in on wheel chairs. Some were aided by walking sticks and yet others on the supporting arms of their children, relatives and friends. A total of 30 seriously sick people had registered for anointing at this first healing mass celebrated on 15th February here at the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM), Penang. They were seated at the front pews and at the ends of the side pews to enable easy access for Rev. Fr. Martin Arlando to perform the anointing during the mass.
In his homily on the Gospel of John 2:1-11 (Miracle at the wedding at Cana), Fr. Martin asked the congregation, “How did Mary know that Jesus could do it?” He explained that all good mothers know their children well. He then asked why did Mary not ask for many things for herself since she knew that she was living with a wonder worker. After all, everyone believes that charity begins at home. Mary was like Jesus in knowing that the needs of others came first.
On this day of the 22nd World Day of the Sick, Pope Francis had dedicated the day to the intersession of Mary to help sick people live their own suffering in communion with Jesus Christ. The theme chosen was Faith and Charity: “We ought to lay down our lives for one another.” (John: 3:16). Fr. Martin then went on to explain the five points of Pope Francis’ message to the sick. Firstly, the church sees in sick people the special presence of the suffering Jesus Christ. God gives courage to them and all of us to face each adversity united with Him. Secondly, although human disease and suffering have not been taken away by God, He has taken them on to Himself, transforming and reducing them as they no longer have the last word. It is a test of faith for us to love our neighbour and those who do not deserve it, to care for those who suffer and are marginalized. Thirdly, we should follow the example of Jesus, the Good Samaritan, to approach those in need with tenderness. Fourthly, we should turn to Mary as our Christian model who is always attentive to the word of God. We should turn with confidence and filial devotion to her and she will help support us and not abandon us. Lastly, we cannot love God if we do not love our sisters and brothers. The example of John the disciple, showed this with his steadfast support of Mary at the foot of the cross on Calvary. Fr. Martin asked the congregation to reflect on what gifts God has given them. He stressed that concern for others is the beginning of miracles. We have to be ready to serve, to use those gifts given to us and more importantly to pray for others. This will strengthen our Christian community. He humbly requested for the prayers of the people and those of the sick for himself, the community and the church.
At the anointing, some broke down and wept while others beamed with joy at receiving this gift of healing. At the end of mass, each anointed person was given a red packet. Fr. thanked the efforts of all who made the great effort to bring their sick to mass and the congregation who came to remind the sick that in their suffering they had the support of the community. The congregation was also treated to fellowship after mass. The event was most meaningful even to those non-Christians who came for healing.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
24th February, 2014.