The line of the Gospel that most stand out for me today is Jesus proclamation that those who believe in him will “lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
It likely stood out to me because of the moment of pandemic we are in, as I think of those suffering from the terrible Covid-19 illness in hospitals or in their homes. I think of loved ones who may or may not be able to be with them. It reminds me of ministers of the church who are offering care for them either in person, often at great risk to their own health and lives, or remotely, seeking to spiritually assist the sick, or prepare the dying for their final communion with God.
I think of priests or deacons offering anointing or Last Rites or prayers over a phone or screen, chaplains, lay ministers and others who are the presence of God in these grief filled days to so many who are hurting – both those who are ill and their loved ones who are heartbroken. It is both sacred and exhausting work for these pastoral care givers. Let us make sure to spare a moment of prayer for them.
The message of Jesus in the Gospel today is that those who believe in him will be able to do amazing and marvelous things.
They can drive out demons. Or put another way, they can be like Jesus and confront us with the ways in which we are afflicted by evil on a personal level and a societal level. They can name the brokenness in our lives and our time and seek to replace it with the compassion and justice of Jesus.
Believers in Christ will speak new languages. They will find the words of wisdom to ignite faith in others.
They will pick up serpents and remove them and not be affected by poison; believers will be in places where sin and suffering have done terrible damage and help build up the good because they are rooted in the life of Christ and his Spirit.
“They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” – The sick will find healing in the presence of believers – it may be physical or it may not, but it will always, always also be spiritual. Being healed at this deep level is possible because it is Christ who acts when believers act in his name and after his example.
The believers who Jesus speaks of are the Church – all of us – who receive our mission from him in today’s Gospel. “Proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” Let the good news ring out!
Even in times of great suffering like ours; even at the bedside of the dying, among the many anxieties and hurts we carry, believers, clothed in the sacred humility Peter writes about in the first reading, can speak an encouraging and life-giving word.
On this Feast of St. Mark, the early Christian whose name is associated with the earliest Gospel of the four Gospels, let us pray that the Holy Spirit which gave him the ability to speak and write the life-giving word of Jesus will well up in us as we seek to live out the beautiful promise of new Easter life during these difficult times.
God give you peace!
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As Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I have the opportunity to record video reflections on the readings of the Scriptures proclaimed at daily Mass. I do so as part of larger group of colleagues at the Conference, along with lay and ordained leaders from around the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the readings for the life of faith today and to share them here, along with the written text of the reflections. To view these video reflections for past and upcoming celebrations of the Eucharist, visit the USCCB website.