“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
For whoever has been anointed with the sacrament of the sick may remember the words of this Gospel being proclaimed in the ritual. It may seem unusual that among all the readings of the Gospel it is this reading that is chosen for the rite since there are several other narratives of Jesus coming to someone who is sick and heals them. Yet when you consider the situation of the sick person whether at home or in a hospital bed, these words of Jesus are most appropriate. As much as it is important to recall the numerous times Jesus healed people during His public ministry, it is also important to recall that the sick are not alone in their suffering. Through the ministry of the Church, Jesus is present as much as He was present to those who He cured in the Gospels. The message of today’s Gospel reminds us that we are never alone in sickness or good health and for that matter we cannot face anything in our Christian Discipleship by ourselves. Jesus wants us to come to Him and take His yoke.
After the evangelization of our children and yes even adults, the care ministry to the sick and homebound of our Una Familia offers us an important part of our mission. I am so grateful and inspired by the dozen or so volunteers who give time, talent, and treasure to go out to our brothers and sisters who are sick and visit them and console them with Word, Sacrament, and the ministry of presence. If you have ever thought about being part of such an important ministry, I strongly encourage you to speak to Parri in the parish office or ask one of our care ministers like Helen Randall about their ministry to the sick. I know that they will share their many experiences and how they have been able to offer great comfort to those who they visit and what such ministry does for them. I think often many folks are afraid or fearful that they may not have the gift to be a part of this compassionate ministry. In response to such doubts, I share with you what I often remind our care ministers that they should not worry about what you have to say or do, rather just be present. It is being present, the ministry of presence that Jesus is saying to us in the Gospel today. There is no doubt that He is present to us and for that reason, we never should consider us to be alone.
I have often thought that loneliness is more so a state of mind that we often inflict upon ourselves or others. Yes, we have times where we are alone and are solitary, but we are truly never alone. Loneliness occurs when we create obstacles or convince ourselves that no one is around. Jesus does not want us to fall into this destructive line of thinking. He wants to reassure us there is never a moment in which we are truly alone. He is with us at every moment of the day. What He asks of us is to come to Him and take His yoke upon us and from there we will experience true rest, in other words, His Presence. The rest that Jesus offers is from our useless and burdensome worry, anxiety, stress, and yes, fear of being alone.
Following the anointing of those who are sick, the priest reminds the sick: Father in heaven, through this holy anointing grant our dear brother and sister comfort in their suffering. When they are afraid, give them courage, when afflicted, give them patience, when dejected, afford them hope, and when alone, assure them of the support of your holy people. The last petition is precisely the assurance that for anyone whether one is well or ill, they will always have the support of the Holy People of God who is the Church: You and Me! The Church is the Body of Christ here on earth and we make up part of that body. Thus when one member of that body is sick the entire body shares in the suffering of the one. Through Holy Baptism we have been supernaturally incorporated into one body and Una Familia that goes beyond the limitations of our natural familial bonds. Each of us has the responsibility to ensure and guarantee that no member of our Una Familia feels or experiences fear, affliction, dejection, or loneliness. Each of us matter and each of us have a responsibility to this Una Familia and no one can exempt themselves.
There is not a day that passes that the Church or I don’t pray for our mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers of our Una Familia who are sick and suffering at this time. Each of us should be praying for them and doing our part to ensure that they are never alone in their illness or suffering. We need to open our eyes and minds to each member of our Una Familia. We are in this together and it is our Christian responsibility to guarantee that no person feels alone and distant from Jesus who comes to us through the work of every member of our Una Familia.
Yours in Christ,