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NOTE

I cite a fuller reading of the assigned Gospel text for this Sunday and my Words for the Wind are based on John 1:29-39.

 

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God,* who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me. I did not know him,* but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel. John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove* from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.  Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.  The two disciples* heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying? He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon.*

 

Dear Friends,

 

Taking care of the sick is a hallmark of Christian ministry with repeated examples cited in the Gospel stories of Jesus caring for the sick and infirm in a variety of ways.

 

But please note that while there is ample witness to the outreach of Jesus to the sick and infirm, the sicknesses and infirmities are symbolic of universal human limitations and not simply specific situations of specific human persons sick 2000 years ago.

 

Whatever sickness or infirmity that we read or hear of Jesus “curing” or “healing,” we can be sure that we suffer from the same malady or affliction.

 

We have not been taught to “see” and “understand” ourselves as mirrored in the characters in the Gospel stories because as the Church became more closely allied with the emperor and succeeding political leaders and systems, maintaining and transmitting power became the priority not the Word of God.

 

Apologetical Catholicism, remember, was concerned with building a case for any number of predetermined ideas, it was not concerned with the texts of the Gospel as living revelations and communications with God.

 

The Church began to assume and then teach that all revelation had already happened, that as far as the hierarchy was concerned creation was a finished project. We know everything, there is nothing new under the sun.

 

For instance, there are numerous claims in various settings in the Gospel texts that “Jesus truly is the Son of God,” and Jesus is “the beloved child of God in whom God takes great pleasure” are there not?

 

The question that I would ask in the face of that claim is, what does it mean to be a Son of God, what does it meant to be beloved of God, and what does it mean for God to find pleasure or favor in him.

 

Apologetical Catholicism assumes the answers and then uses the various texts to “prove” the assumption citing other texts of the Gospel as “miracles” performed by Jesus “because he was the Son of God.”

 

So, “Jesus is the Son of God” because Jesus turned water into wine at Cana or Jesus walked on water or Jesus fed 5000 people or Jesus raised a little girl from the dead.

 

Finished! Done with that! Got it!

 

But what does it mean when water becomes wine in 6 stone jars used for purification? What does it mean for a little girl of 13-the specified age-to be raised from the dead?

 

There are lots and lots of stories in the Gospel texts not taken seriously in their own right but just used to shore up ideas that people have come up with that may or may not have anything to do with what we believe to be God’s revealed Word in the New Testament.

 

This kind of use of texts in the Bible is not taking God’s Word seriously but giving human opinions and precepts the force of Divine Revelation when it is just a kind of propaganda to support previously determined ideas that are presumed with honesty or malice to be the truth.

 

Some of the more questionable apologetical claims relate to gender as in “if Jesus wanted women to be priests, he would have ordained his mother.”

 

Now I am sure there are lots of priests that would love to have their mothers “ordained,” but I doubt if any of those ideas ever crossed the mind of Jesus as we encounter him in any of the Gospels.

 

On the contrary, Jesus refers to “his mother” more often than not as, Woman. “Woman” reflects an older layer of human myth found in among other places the dynamics of Oedipus-like stories and characters, issues of human development being worked out long before the Jewish Bible is born.

 

Each story of an encounter between Jesus and a sick or infirm person needs to be thoughtfully considered in the context of the Gospel and in the context of the historical moment.

 

Blindness, paralysis, the inability to speak, a withered hand, a dead child, a dead friend are all Gospel settings for further reflection, prayer, and insight.

 

What does it mean to be blind, blind in the mind or heart, for instance, not simply the eyes?

 

What does a withered hand keep you from being or doing?

 

How does deafness contribute to cruelty, injustice, violence?

 

If you are unable to speak words of forgiveness or reconciliation how does your muteness prevent healing?

 

Remember that none, absolutely none, of the characters “healed” or “cured” survived so to what avail the stories of them?

 

We are all “sick” or “infirm” and that is harder to believe, at least for me, than I am “saved” or healed by the death and resurrection of Christ.

 

We all have a hard time understanding ourselves with any kind of reliable and consistent truth and the truth is that we are incomplete and not capable of completing ourselves. Grace and mercy and love are the healing actions of God in our lives but an axiom of Catholic belief is that grace builds on nature it does not replace it.

 

The “sick” and “infirm” of the Gospels are us, each one of us and taking the time to sit with a story and not think we know what it is about is crucial to “see” where we “stay.”

 

Where we stay is where we our consciousness is focused, what is on our mind, what is the assumptive world view we carry around with us.

 

Do we “see” ourselves as the beloved child of God?  Do we “stay” in a mindset of acceptance, wonder, awe, and love as we go about our days?

 

Probably not because we carry with us all kinds of conscious and unconscious baggage that sickens us and makes us infirm, negative judgements, harsh criticisms, parental and societal expectations all compete with the Word of God in our lives and they can keep us sick and infirm, paralyzed, blind, deaf, even dead, to the Word of God.

 

The Gospel texts are meant to intrigue us and help us change our consciousness with ideas of mercy and love and goodness because we can come to trust the grace of God in the Word that nudges us, makes room for us, and heals us if we give it time by taking time to just be, just listen to the silence, to trust the darkness and to just relax into being a beloved child.

 

Develop some daily or regular place and/or time to still your mind and you will begin to “see” where you “stay” and you can choose to leave or remain.

 

Peace,

Father Niblick

 

PARISH MINISTRY TO THE SICK

 

Deacon Phil and Debbie Lund and a host of generous volunteers carefully help our parish take care of the sick with prayers, prayer blankets, visits, and Holy Communion throughout the year.

We celebrate the Sacrament of the Sick in community at least four times a year and generally include the sick in our petitions at Mass.

 

We accept people’s requests for prayers for the sick, as well as, bless everyone in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit at every single celebration of the liturgy.

 

There are requests from people in our parish and from far away who ask us to bless those presumably close to death with the Sacrament of the Sick and or Holy Communion and as only a priest can administer the Sacrament of the Sick I go when I am called upon or our office people will work very hard to find a priest to go if I am not available.

 

However, there is still a notion of “last rights” or “last rites” that has a basis in the religious imaginations of people and that had been a standard part of pastoral ministry in years past that can be difficult for me or any priest to make happen as you would expect based on these understandings of “last rites or rights.”

 

To be quite honest there is not now nor has there ever been such things as “last rites” or “last rights.”

 

There was a self-serving, ego based, clerical obsession with dying with unconfessed mortal sins on your souls but I hope we have more confidence in Christ’s resurrection than to think a person is damned to hell because of the absence of a priest.

 

I realize that when someone you care about is close to death all kinds of feelings and thoughts dominate your consciousness and you do not need a theology lesson but normal ministry to the sick as separate from emergency ministry to the sick is better experienced outside of a crisis mindset.

 

Any person of advanced age or with a chronic medical condition will benefit from the ministry of the Church over time and not at or close to the moment of death.

 

All of that being said, if you want the sacramental ministry of a priest for yourself or someone that you care about or for, the sooner you request the priest the better it is.

 

Waiting until you decide that the person is at death’s door is not a good idea. I am happy and privileged to be called but I am one person and I have limits. I do not drive unknown routes at night, I do not feel competent to drive expressways or Route 30 anymore, day or night, so please call 865.8956 if you want a priest as soon as you can accept the sickness or nearing death as you are able to ensure that we can minister to you as we want to. CWN