By TARA CONNOLLY Staff writer
“The most important thing in today’s Gospel of the man seeking to be healed – is that in his suffering, he encountered Christ,” said Bishop of Allentown Alfred Schlert Feb. 11 during a Mass for the World Day of the Sick at Holy Family Manor (HFM), Bethlehem.
Bishop Schlert celebrated the special Mass for an estimated 75 residents, family members and staff for the World Day of the Sick, a day introduced by St. Pope John Paul II to offer prayers for those suffering from illnesses.
The day also coincided with the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes and signals Catholic health ministry to reflect on caring for those who are sick.
“As we celebrate the World Day for the Sick, everywhere throughout the Catholic world we are reflecting on the great Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and the consolation the sacrament can bring,” said Bishop Schlert.
“We also celebrate Catholic health care. To all the dedicated employees and staff working here to be a presence of Christ – I say thank you,” he added.
Reflecting on the day’s Gospel recounting the healing of a man suffering from leprosy, Bishop Schlert said there are many ways to encounter Christ, like engaging in prayer, reception of the Holy Eucharist and through other people.
“But we must remember that in sickness and our frailty – there are encounters with Christ. Jesus even uses sinfulness and doubt to have encounters of love with him,” stressed Bishop Schlert.
He then pointed to other melancholy scenes in the Gospels, like the man born lame, Lazarus, the grieving sisters and the blind man.
“What we see most in the Gospels is Jesus encountering people in their sickness, illness and frailty,” said Bishop Schlert.
Although sickness is not a way one would choose to encounter Christ, Bishop Schlert maintained that the encounter has great and deeper meaning.
“They can be grace-filled moments. That is the great hope that illness and frailty brings us. It gives us the opportunity to encounter Christ through others. Even when the world thinks it is too tough of a situation – it is a way for us to see Christ and glorify him,” he said.
“Through your personal courage – you bring us our own courage because our own time for suffering will come,” said Bishop Schlert.
He also lauded the HFM staff for extending physical, emotional and spiritual care to the manor’s over 200 residents and their family members.
“If we don’t provide health care with Catholic faith, compassion and dignity – then we are not fulfilling the mandate of Christ. Thank you for acting in the true mandate of Christ and allowing him to permeate this building,” he said.
Bishop Schlert and concelebrant Father Anthony Drouncheck, chaplain of Holy Family Manor, performed the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick for each resident.
Bishop Schlert then led the residents, family members and staff in a litany of prayers asking God to restore their strength, free them from pain and sin, and to sustain them.
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is administered to bring spiritual and physical strength in times of illness. The sacrament conveys several graces and imparts gifts of strengthening in the Holy Spirit against anxiety, discouragement and temptation, and conveys peace and fortitude.
Msgr. Anthony Wassel, HFM resident and pastor emeritus of Assumption, Sacred Heart and St. Joseph, Mahanoy City, also concelebrated the Mass.