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
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.*
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
What does a withered hand keep you from
being or doing?
How does deafness contribute to cruelty,
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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