Archbishop Aquila’s July prayer intention is for the sick and suffering.
“When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.’ He said to him, ‘I will come and cure him.’ The centurion said in reply, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Amen, I say to you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith’ ” (Mt 8:5-10).
We could make an extensive reflection on this gospel passage, but the main purpose is to highlight the centurion’s prayer and the immediate reaction of Jesus. In the Gospels, Jesus shows great sympathy for the sick and suffering. This empathy is transformed into compassion that moved him to heal them.
Pope Francis has said: “The sick hold a privileged position in the Church and the priestly heart of all the faithful. They are not to be cast aside. On the contrary, they are to be cared for, to be looked after. They are the objects of Christian concern” (Pope Francis, Papal Audience, Aug. 28, 2019).
The Holy Father continued: “The thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.”
Jesus embodied this mentality in his public ministry. As we read in the Gospel of Matthew: “The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, ‘why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ He heard this and said, ‘those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do’” (Mt 9:11-12).
Jesus relates sin to sickness. This is not to say sickness is the result of sinfulness only; rather, the source of all the suffering and evils of humanity is sin. A person not only gets sick physically, but also spiritually. This is most apparent in the sins of pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth. These are called the “capital sins” because they engender many other sins and can lead to even greater illnesses and suffering.
The archbishop invites us all to pray in July for those who are sick and suffering. The world is wounded, the Church is wounded, and we all have experienced physical or spiritual sufferings — we, too, have wounds. We mustn’t pray only for the sickness of the body, but for the sickness of the whole person: body, soul, and spirit. We also mustn’t forget that the source of all healing and prayer is the Eucharist. There, we all are called to be like the centurion, people of such faith and intentional prayer, where we repeat the words: ”Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; only say the word and I should be healed.”
“I and they.” This moment is significant during Mass because Jesus himself is present to come into direct contact with all of us in Holy Communion, which is also a central moment to remember the sick and suffering as the objects of our Christian concern. During the prayers of the faithful at each Mass, we pray for the sick and the suffering to “Jesus the physician and the Medicine,” and if it is his will, he can cure them, even if they are in a home, hospital or in other countries. The power and healing of God knows no distance, and neither do our prayers.