Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
This is the grace I received when I had the joy of reading attentively the pastoral letter entitled Christ our medicine for our illness, well written by Mgr Charles J. Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta and Mgr Mario Grech, Bishop of its sister island Gozo.
All of us are, in a way or another, ill. Besides the physical illnesses we suffer from our bishops mention other types of maladies that are attacking the peace of our souls. “There are illnesses of a moral nature: even though we all know the difference between what is good and what is bad, yet many times we find ourselves doing precisely what we do not wish to do. There are illnesses of a spiritual nature, when a person, in spite of his efforts to live authentically, feels distant from God. There are emotional wounds, when a person feels that he or she is being brushed aside, betrayed, humiliated, lied about, cheated and treated unjustly”.
If all of us carry these types of illnesses what can we do to be healed from them? Resorting to Jesus Christ, theHealer. So did Paul when he came to visit us. In fact, the bishops explain, “Paul concentrated on one main thing: healing. As an apostle of Jesus Christ, he healed the father of Publius. After this, the people all came out tobring to him their sick, so that they too would be healed from their illnesses (see Acts 28:8-9)”.
Walking on Paul’s footsteps we priests have the responsible mission of adminstering Jesus’ healing to those who need it. Our shepherds spell it out that “the priest’s mission: not to condemn or excommunicate, but toplace his hands upon the sick and pray for the mercy of God which heals”. If Christ is “Healer of the Soul” (De civitate Dei, 5,14) then we are urgently called by Jesus’ merciful love to bestow his saving grace on those who are sick in their bodies. The letter of James tells us: “Any one of you who is ill should send for the elders of thechurch, and they must anoint the sick person with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him. The prayer ofthe faith will save the sick person” (Jm 5:14).
Since the Church is, in St George Preca’s words, “the Hospital of Christ,” we as priests are called to visit and offer Jesus’ healing to those who are “sick with anger, jealousy, hatred, greed, theft, revenge”. The Church, which according to Pope Francis, is “a field hospital”, welcomes all sort of wounded people, especially “those who are going through a difficult time in their marriage or family life”. For them God’s merciful love is particularly available. They too need Jesus’ healing and peace to go foward in their lives no matter the daily challenges they have to face.
In their inspiring pastoral letter our bishops remind us that the sacrament of confession is “the normal channel through which this healing power [of reconciliation with God the Father via Jesus Christ] is transmitted”. Thebishops explain that thanks to “this sacrament, man tastes the goodness of God’s mercy, he becomes aware ofthe ugliness of sin and starts to feel repentant and then converts!” Then, our shepherds go on by exhorting all of us, the faithful, “to place firmly at the centre of Church life, the sacrament of reconciliation, so that we can experience first-hand the greatness of mercy (see Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 17)”. Far from effecting magical healing, the bishops say, “this sacrament is part of a healing process that takes time… Absolution is a dose of divine medicine which assists in the healing process.”
Wounds call to be healed. Let us all of us, bishops, priests and faithful, benefit from God’s merciful love for us by resorting to the great sacrament of reconciliation. Bearing in mind, of course, what Jesus told us: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt 6:14-15).
If you and me are in need of the Healer, Jesus Christ, when shall we go to confession?