Bernadette Soubirous was a sickly young woman. But on February 11, 1858, her entire life changed when a beautiful lady, clothed in white, with a rosary over her arm and a yellow rose on each foot, appeared to her and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” In the years since, the site of those wonderful apparitions, Lourdes, has been a place of pilgrimage and healing, but even more of faith. Church authorities have recognized over 60 miraculous cures, although there have probably been many more. To people of faith this is not surprising. It is a continuation of Jesus’ healing miracles—now performed at the intercession of his mother. Some would say that the greater miracles are hidden ones. That is, many who visit Lourdes return home with renewed faith and a readiness to serve God in their needy brothers and sisters.
In today’s Gospel, people flock to Jesus for healing. Whenever people heard he was in the area, they would flock to him, bringing their sick loved ones on mats and laying them in the marketplaces so that as he passed, they might touch his cloak, and be healed. And they were healed. One can only imagine how faith in his power to heal grew as these miracles continued.
Many continue to be healed in body, mind and spirit today. Maybe it’s the remission of cancer, or deliverance from the flu. Perhaps the intercessor was Saint Blaise, who we recently remembered, or Saint Peregrine, or Our Lady of Lourdes who we celebrate today. However it is accomplished, healing is the ministry of our God. Sometimes an illness is not cured, perhaps it even grows worse or is terminal, and so maybe the healing that God intends in that situation isn’t the physical one we hope for, but instead some spiritual gift or growth in faith. God answers our prayers in all sorts of ways, though the prayers of many intercessors; a person of faith takes comfort in that.
In 1992, Pope John Paul II proclaimed today as the World Day of the Sick, “a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering for the good of the Church and of reminding us to see in our sick brother and sister the face of Christ who, by suffering, dying and rising, achieved the salvation of humankind.” In our prayer today, we remember all of those who are sick, and we offer our own illnesses and frailties for the accomplishment of God’s will in our world.