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Given at the Mass of Anointing of the Sick in Lourdes on Tuesday 25th July 2023

The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick reveals to us the mercy and healing of God, the outpouring of an abundance of God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. After the laying on of hands invoking the transformation of the Holy Spirit, the priest says for the anointing on the forehead, ‘Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit’. For the second anointing on the hands he says, ‘May the Lord who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up.’

The action of God is merciful and healing and raises you up as Jesus raised Peter’s mother-in-law from her bed of fever and sickness. He cures and heals. We pray for those who are united with the Cross and Christ’s Paschal mystery, his death and Resurrection, through their suffering and sickness.

At the end of the Stations of the Cross, on Saturday, we paused at the 15th station, the Resurrection. There we feel the hope of that station which can be likened to the first glimmer of daybreak and the light of dawn breaking into the darkness of the night. From that moment onwards you know that the intensity of the light will increase and soon sunlight will flood into the world. Colour and vibrancy will return and shine forth from all those things that looked grey before the dawn. Darkness gives way to light and then we feel the intensity of the light and heat of the sun. This is a powerful image of the promise of resurrection when we will be saved and raised up to into ‘the new heavens and new earth’ – sadness will turn to joy, grief to consolation, injustice to peace, death into life, longing into praise. 

Those of you who bear the suffering of sickness are members of the Body of Christ who bear his wounds in your bodies. You share in the wounds which are also present in the Risen Christ who raises them up. You are invited to offer your suffering for the good of the Church, for the living stones making up a spiritual temple. The Cross points us towards the new life of heaven and being raised up in glory. This is our hope. 

He is Risen and walks with us, especially when we meet him in the sacraments and encounter the Risen Christ. Today we encounter in the Sacrament of the sick, the healing and forgiving presence of Jesus who welcomes the sick and the sinners. The Lord will save you and raise you up. This work of God will continue this evening as we celebrate God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or if you choose to go to confession in the Chapel of Reconciliation.

In the first reading we heard the wonderful love that God has lavished on each one of us. Through our baptism we are God’s children, now and forever. The journey of life is a mystery, many hills and valleys, joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, but the promise of Jesus is clear – at the end of the journey if we are faithful, ‘we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.’ This is the hope that sustained St Bernadette after the apparitions during her life in the convent and dying at the age of 35. Then we, like her, will know intimacy with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for which we long. 

Meanwhile now we pray, ‘as the deer longs for running streams so I long, so I long, so I long for you’. We thirst and seek Jesus who said ‘I am the living water, come and drink of the water of life’. We will pray and sing, ‘Give us water to drink, Give us water to drink. Go and wash in the pool of Siloam.’ (from ‘Aquero’, The Miracle, Lavery/Marseglia).

Bishop John Sherrington