On a bright and sunny morning on Saturday 25 August 2018, a group of smartly-dressed EMHC (Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion) at the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM), Sg Ara, Penang, had just put the final touches on their preparations for the Day of Prayer for the Sick. Rows of gleaming wheelchairs had been arranged neatly in the reception area which had been specially set up in the Garden of Mercy. As if on cue, they started arriving - the sick, the infirm and the immobile, their ages ranging from 5 to 92 years. In wheelchairs, hobbling on walking sticks and carried on stretchers, they came with their caregivers to place before God their needs for physical, emotional and spiritual healing. They were all given a warm welcome and named tagged by the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC), who were the main hosts for the day, and ushered to their seats in the front pews of the church.
In his greeting, parish priest, Fr Martin Arlando, gave an apt reminder that Jesus can heal us only if we surrender to him our doubts and lack of faith and place our trust in him completely. He expanded on this during his homily with a story which illustrated the power of Jesus' name. He explained that so often we concentrate so much on ourselves and all that is wrong with us when instead we should be focusing on Jesus whose name alone holds so much power. We need to believe in the power of that name and we need to have faith that Jesus wants to heal us and lift us out of sickness.
Fr Martin continued by saying that the sick must not think of themselves as being a burden to their family and caregivers. They should instead be aware of how closely linked they are to Jesus through the Stations of the Cross. He explained that a careful reflection on the Stations of the Cross will reveal that the story of each Station is actually our personal story as our sufferings are similar to Jesus' sufferings. For example, isn't sickness a heavy cross on our shoulders, similar to the heavy cross that was placed on Jesus' shoulders at the second Station? Just like Jesus, we must carry our crosses forward and, just as he did, we will also fall due to our fear and our tendency to give up easily. As we carry our crosses, we will meet people along the way who help us (just as Jesus was helped by Veronica and Simon of Cyrene), and we will also meet people who experience the pain of helplessness because they are unable to help us (cf. Jesus meeting his mother). Fr Martin reminded the sick that they had an important role to play by praying for others whose situations are similar to their own. He also reminded them that in the Sacrament of Anointing, it is Jesus who is laying hands on them. Fr Martin then went up to each sick person, anointing 48 Catholics and blessing two non-Catholics.
After Mass, all those who had been anointed or blessed received a candle each, beautifully encased in a glass holder. Everyone then proceeded to the Faustina Hall to partake of the hearty brunch served up by the EMHC. As they chatted away, several people commented on the celebration, saying that they had experienced feelings of happiness and inner peace during the Mass. Mary, from Risen Christ Church, said that this was her 3rd time participating in a Mass for the sick and each time she had felt so touched. Monica commented that the homily was very meaningful, especially in the way it showed the link between our personal lives and the Stations of the Cross. It was interesting to note that number of people who came for anointing this year was a little different from those who regularly came for this event. It is with the grace of God that we infer that those absent have received sufficient healing from their last visit.
Ng Wai Queen
3rd September, 2018