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June 28, 2015

Last Sunday someone called me at 7 AM informing that Mary Miller had died.  She was 97 years old and had a full life with God, family and community.  At 1 AM on Monday, my nephew called and said his dad passed away at 57 years of age with lung cancer.  We tried every means we could but his time was up.  He was closer to me than any of my brothers since I rescued him from poverty and he was a main caregiver to my mom.  He looked after the family farm and was my guide and companion when I went home.  The last few days you may have heard about the SD 76 Superintendent, Grant Henderson’s passing.  Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord!

Suffering, sickness and death may not be interesting topics for conversation or for preaching, but they are realities we cannot ignore. Death, in particular, is a mystery that has tormented mankind down the centuries.  Death even tormented the Lord Jesus too as he endued an agony of a waiting death from his conception to his crucifixion. The Vatican Council says in thePastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World(n. 18): 'Man rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to sheer matter.' In the same place the Council reiterates the teaching of the Bible that God has created humans for a blissful purpose beyond the reach of earthly misery. God did not create sickness or death. He is the living and life-giving God. He created humans to enjoy the fullness of life.

Proof of this is not restricted to the rather abstract teaching of the Old Testament, as found in the Book of Wisdom for instance. Christ's concern for humans’ concrete problems is clear from his miracles of healing and from the fact that he raised some dead people to life. He did not cure to improve, to impress or to convince.  His cures were a natural expression of being our God.  The number he healed and raised from the dead was in fact relatively few, at least in comparison with the number of those who were not healed by him. It should be recalled, however, that he commissioned his apostles to continue his work of healing (cf. Mat. 9:35-10:1), thereby ensuring that concern for the sick would continue. His very example would have ensured this in any case. Christ came to undo the work of Satan and to restore humanity to the integrity they had before the sin of Adam. The integrity would come, under God's grace, primarily through a new and purified heart. And yet his message was directed to the whole human; it envisages a renewed humanity in the full sense of the word.

The Church's ministry of healing has a like universality. It derives from Christian teaching on the dignity of a human being as God's image. We should pray and labor for the conquest of disease. The two must go together.  Every victory over disease is a fulfilment of God’s plan.

The ministry of healing extends to all forms of respect for human life and condemnation of actions and attitudes of mind which lead to violence. The healing process should, of course, consist in positive action rather than in condemnation. Respect for true human life means fostering the social virtues which are a necessity for building up true community.

Every Christian is called to this ministry in one way or another, since it is only by a life permeated by the Christian spirit, by love, forgiveness, forbearing, helpfulness and such, that the sin of the world is taken away and the kingdom of God made into a reality.

I personally thank all DOCTORS, NURSES, HEALTH CARE WORKERS AND PASTORAL CARE PEOPLE.  You are the extended hands of the Lord Jesus.  You are doing his ministry and bring hope and healing to his people.  May God return the goodness to you!