St Francis at Prayer, Murillo, painted 1645 -50
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Gospel Mark 1:29-39 (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)
On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon's mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped, her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.
That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.
In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, 'Everybody is looking for you.' He answered, 'Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.' And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.
An Soiscéal Marcas 1:29-39 (Gaeilge, Irish)
San am sin ar dhul amach as an tsionagóg d Íosa, chuaigh sé isteach gan mhoill i dteach Shíomóin agus Aindrias, in éineacht le Séamas agus Eoin. Bhí máthair chéile Shíomóin ina luí agus an fiabhras uirthi, agus ní dhearna siad aon mhoill gan labhairt leis mar gheall uirthi. Chuaigh sé anonn chuici, rug ar láimh uirthi agus thóg suas í. D’fhág an fiabhras í agus thosaigh sí ag freastal orthu.
Nuair a bhí an tráthnóna ann, tar éis luí gréine, thug siad chuige cách a bhí tinn agus na daoine a raibh deamhain iontu. Bhí an chathair ar fad cruinnithe timpeall an dorais, agus leigheas sé mórán a bhí tinn ó gach sórt galair, agus chaith sé amach mórán deamhan, agus ní ligeadh sé do na deamhain labhairt, mar bhí a fhios acu cérbh é.
D’éirigh sé ina shuí ar maidin tamall maith roimh lá, ghabh sé amach agus d’imigh go dtí áit uaigneach agus bhí sé ansiúd ag guí. Chuaigh Síomón agus a chompánaigh ar a lorg, agus nuair a fuair siad é dúirt siad leis: “Tá cách do do chuardach.” Dúirt sé leo: “Téanam go dtí áit éigin eile, isteach sna bailte móra atá ar cóngar, chun go mbeinn ag seanmóir iontu sin freisin, mar is chuige sin a ghabh mé amach.” Agus tháinig sé ag seanmóir ina gcuid sionagóg ar fud na Gailíle go léir agus ag caitheamh na ndeamhan amach.
I'm writing this in Manila on Thursday. Earlier I came back from Alaminos, Pangasinan, a five-hour bus trip from Manila, heading north-west, near the Gulf of Lingayen that featured in World War II and an area where Columbans worked from 1935 utnil 2010. I went to visit two friends, Dr Tom Okner and his wife Mary Ann, who are part of a medical mission from Minnesota in Western Pangasinan District Hospital this week. I went up yesterday and when I arrived Tom was busy doing operations - he's an ENT specialist - while Mary Ann was preparing the schedules for the operations by different surgeons. Mary Ann invited me to go into the Operating Room but I declined. I'd have to dress up and, more importantly, I'd only be in the way.
The scene in the hospital reminded me of this Sunday's gospel. Jesus had gone straight to the home of St Peter from the synagogue. The medical team arrived at night on the long flight from Minneapolis/St Paul via Tokyo and were taken straight by bus to Pangasinan.Next morning they were at work. So many people were coming that it might not be possible to do surgery for everyone. The gospel tells us that Jesus 'cured many' but not all.
The medical team have little sleep each night and basically are working a 7 to 7 schedule, with some on call also at night.
Before I wemt to Alaminos I read an email from one of my closest friends - we started in kindergarten together - asking me 'as a person with some influence' to pray for the wife of another classmate who is having delicate surgery today. On the bus coming down I had a text message from a friend here in the Philippines thanking me for praying for his mother-in-law who was critically ill lately but has improved and added a request for prayers for his older brother who is an alcoholic and going through a bad patch at present. He also asked for prayers for his sister-in-law.
We are all part of the Body of Christ. We are all called by God to share in the healing power of Jesus the Risen Lord whether as surgeons, persons who make schedules for patients, individuals who pray - though all are called to prayer in their lives. The father of my friend Mary Ann was a distinguished doctor who died before Christmas aged 90 and after 66 years of marriage. When I first met Dr Stephen Balshi more than 40 years ago I remember a comment he made in passing that showed how important for him it was that the priest be faithful to prayer, especially to the Breviary, also known as the Prayer of the Church, The Divine Office.
Those who thank me and the many others who pray for them in times of sickness also thank the doctors and other medical professionals who help them recover. The Jesus who healed many sick persons in the evening and the Jesus who went off to pray before dawn after only a few hours of sleep was the same person. He is present now as the Risen Lord, as our healer, in the hands of the surgeon, in the kind word of the nurse, in the concern of the administrator reaching out to as many as possible, in the love of anxious parents, in the priest who brings the sacrament of the sick, in all who pray for those who are suffering.