In special Masses for the sick, Saint Paul’s witness as a healer is a choice for the liturgy. Strangely, this brief story doesn’t make it into the Pastoral Care rites. As a passage in Acts, it would be assigned “properly” to the first reading in an Easter season liturgy, otherwise as a second reading in worship outside that season.
People like stories. The background here is in the previous chapter. While Paul is being taken to Rome as a prisoner, the ship encounters difficulty: running aground on a sandbar in the Mediterranean, getting pounded by waves, and all escaping on planks to a nearby island.
(On Malta) were lands belonging to a man named Publius,
the chief of the island.
He welcomed us and received us cordially
as his guests for three days.
It so happened that the father of Publius was sick
with a fever and dysentery.
Paul visited him and, after praying,
laid his hands on him and healed him.
After this had taken place,
the rest of the sick on the island
came to Paul and were cured.
They paid us great honor
and when we eventually set sail
they brought us the provisions we needed.
I can imagine this reading being suitable for a child receiving the anointing of the sick. Maybe adding the shipwreck portion from the end of chapter 27 and the poisonous snake attaching itself to Paul’s arm. That’s certainly memorable, and not only for the evangelist.
One quality to draw out from this story is the expression of gratitude. For a child, this is easy enough. I was sick. Now I’m better. Thank you, God. Thank you also, parents and caregivers, nurses and doctors.
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.