Once in a while, something will just stop me in my tracks. Even if I’m sitting down, it will feel like I’ve been knocked over. That happened to me a couple of weeks ago at Sunday Mass. Bill and I were sitting in the row second from the front. A few minutes before Mass began, a family of five came and sat in front of us. The family included a thirty-something mom and dad, and three children – a boy of about 5, a girl of about 2 or 3, and a baby girl of about 6 or 7 months. Mom and Dad ran quite a tight ship. They required the boy to genuflect and kneel, and didn’t let the older girl get away with much giggling or naughtiness. Pay attention to the priest was the message they seem to be getting from Mom and Dad.
It didn’t take long before I realized that the baby girl, dressed to the nines in pink ruffles and wearing the large pink bow so fashionable among the baby set these days, had Down Syndrome. Being the grandmother of nine perfect grandchildren, I did two things. I thanked God for those perfect grandchildren, and then quickly followed up with a prayer for the family sitting in front of me.
But for the rest of Mass, I couldn’t stop thinking about that family. Here’s what struck me: Either the woman had the prenatal test, learned that the child she was carrying had Down Syndrome, and she and her husband chose to have the baby despite this condition; or the parents elected to not even have the test, knowing that they would have the baby no matter what. Either premise gave me great pause.
During my own pregnancy, and then during the pregnancy of each of my daughters-in-law, I held my breath until such time as the test came back with a positive result. I have never let myself think much about what choices I would make or support should the situation be different. What I do know, however, is that those two parents who sat in front of me at Mass were remarkable and brave and undoubtedly have great faith in God.
That was several weeks ago, but I remembered that family Sunday during the readings at Mass. All were about God’s power of healing.
While listening to the readings – Isaiah’s prophecy of a savior who would clear the ears of the deaf and make the tongues of the mute sing, and Mark’s gospel in which Jesus fulfills that prophecy by healing the blind and mute – I reminded myself that none of us will likely have the opportunity to give a deaf person or a blind person sound or sight. But the words of St. James in the second reading in which he says Show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ reminded me what priest said at the beginning of his homily. We are all, said Fr. Israel, “God’s humble instruments of healing.”
In other words, it matters not one whit to God if we are rich or poor, sick or healthy, black or white, man or woman. And it shouldn’t matter to us either. Those parents love their little girl just as much as they love their two older children. Healing doesn’t have to be something showy and awe-inspiring, like making a blind man see. Healing can be done quietly by the Holy Spirit, and it’s every bit as important.Those parents and their children heal each other every day of the week.
We are all blessed with the grace of God, and healed by his love.