Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto is simply one of the best speakers and writers in the Church today - Not on a grand theological level, but at simply and convincingly portraying the beauty of our faith and what our God has done for us. His column on Lourdes this week is no exception. After some preliminaries on his association with Lourdes he speaks of the paradox of the place, excerpt:
What baffles many about the infirmed pilgrims of Lourdes is the hope that brings them and how Lourdes does not disappoint them. The continuous convergence of those crippled by their physical ailments ignites the air with joy. This seems unexplainable, even absurd. Shouldn’t these people be disappointed? Wasn’t God letting them down again? Where are the spectacular miraculous displays?
The power of Lourdes is found in the glory of God revealed through human frailty. The credence in the Incarnation is tested in the crucible of human suffering. It is precisely in such moments that his glory is revealed.
Lourdes is considered a Marian shrine but, as all sites related to the Virgin Mary, its core is Christ. Mary helps us meditate on our share in work of her son, Jesus. At Lourdes, she brings us to contemplate the wondrous mystery of her Son’s glory reflected in our brothers and sisters who are crippled by sickness and bodily frailty. Those who are so often hidden or shuffled out of sight come into full view. Most often their predicaments are spoken of in hushed tones. In Lourdes they are announced. They become a sacramental sign of the Body of Christ. Their need for assistance and care during the pilgrim days in Lourdes make manifestly clear that which is true for all of us: We are all one body.
Often times the sacraments of penance and the anointing of the sick are celebrated as “private” sacraments, away from much public display. This is due to the manner of the sacramental rituals as well as the circumstances under which the sacraments are celebrated, in a hospital or in a confessional. While much of this is true and necessary, these sacraments, as do all the sacraments, possess a public character. The sacraments, even when administered to an individual, are intended to strengthen and console the whole church.
While penance and the anointing of the sick are for the sinner and the sick, these sacraments also make the sinner and the sick occasions for God’s grace revealed to the church as well as to them. Their weakness and frailty is the opportunity for God’s hand to bring healing and mercy. This is the same testimony about which Paul speaks to us when he says: “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” (II Cor. 12.9)
At Lourdes, the sick and frail openly “boast” of their weakness so that Christ may dwell in them. At Lourdes, the whole Body of Christ joins them in this paradoxical boast. In this way, the sick and frail minister to the rest of the church. They become an occasion of joy for what Christ has done and continues to do for all the members of His Mystical Body.
What follows is the most beautiful conclusion to a column I’ve seen for a very long time. And you’re going to have to go to the Sacramento Catholic Herald to read it. (scroll down to last paragraph)