Popular among many Catholics is the Healing Mass. I’ve experienced a number of these. They are quite moving, a combination of the emotions of the people as well as the spiritual significance of believers gathering to pray for significant physical healing.
I mention this because of three modest verses from the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus has just encountered the Canaanite woman (whom you may remember from Jesus’ comment on giving the food of the children to the dogs). It’s about a forty-mile return to Galilee, but news of his return spread fast. Matthew doesn’t tell us what Jesus’ original intent was for ascending the mountain, but people found him there. People seeking healing of various sorts.
If those suffering from impairment of sight and movement were able to get into the highlands, it suggests they had help. Let’s read:
Moving on from (the region of Tyre and Sidon)
Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee,
went up on the mountain,
and sat down there.
Great crowds came to him,
having with them the lame,
the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others.
They placed them at his feet,
and he cured them.
The crowds were amazed
when they saw the mute speaking,
the deformed made whole,
the lame walking,
and the blind able to see,
and they glorified the God of Israel.
When I reviewed this short passage, it reminded me of those healing Masses. Many people come. Most have companions who assist them. The litany of human ailments is long–longer than the evangelist’s list.
The crowds do three things.
- They place those in need at the feet of the Lord. They hand over their companions to another’s care.
- They are amazed. This, despite Jesus’ reputation and the likely advocacy of the person seeking healing. It suggests that healing exceeds expectations. Does that fit our own experience?
- They glorify God, the God of their tradition, the God to whom they attribute the miracle. Presumably, gratitude is part of this glorification.
When might this reading come into use? Certainly a celebration of an individual anointing in a home or hospital. But this reading also seems tailor-made for a communal celebration, either of anointing of the sick or of a non-sacramental Healing Mass.
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.