Sunday, February 7, 2021

Homily from the earliest days of my diaconate and so appropriate as we approach World Day of the Sick


Homily February 8, 2009/ 5th Sunday Ordinary Time

Angela Boudreaux was living a normal life on the Westbank; a wife and mother of four young children. In 1966, her youngest son fell ill and spent time in and out of the hospital. As he recovered his health, Angela was ignoring troubling symptoms of her own. She was in much pain and her stomach had swollen to the size of a woman six months pregnant. Finally, she went to the doctor and was told her liver was nine times the size of a normal liver. A biopsy would reveal malignant cells and the diagnosis was confirmed: advanced liver cancer. Surgery was scheduled.

Because she asked, the doctors told her surgery would last five hours if removal of the cancer was achieved or one hour if there would be no hope. Her surgery lasted one hour. The liver was gone, replaced by a large, aggressive cancerous tumor. She was told she had weeks to live.

But two weeks later she is still alive and feeling better. Angela was allowed to leave the hospital to get her affairs in order. She made one request of her husband, Melvin. She asked to visit the grave of Fr. Francis Xavier Seelos at St. Mary's Church in the Irish Channel of New Orleans. She knelt at his graveside, gave thanks for being alive, and asked for his intercession to be healed.

Soon, experimental chemotherapy was recommended. The chemo would include a derivative of poison mustard gas. Doctors were desperate; they did not expect a cure. Angela continued to improve and feel better and continued to pray through Fr. Seelos for his intercession. Five years later she is still alive, feeling better and functioning just fine; except for a bad case of gallstones.

The gall bladder surgery actually presented doctors a chance to view the liver. To their amazement, the liver was whole and healthy, tumor-less and perfectly normal. Doctors concluded that the experimental chemotherapy alone could not explain the good news. Her doctor, a Protestant, declared it must be a miracle. Angela knew what happened, her prayers and those of Fr. Seelos, were answered because Jesus heals.

Her case was presented to Rome as part of the process for the cause of the canonization of Fr. Seelos. Angela had worked now for over 25 years for this cause.

I remember these events well for when I was just nine years old my immediate family called me and my sister together, asked us to play with four young children, cousins we had not ever met, and we better be to them for their mother only had days to live. You see Angela and Melvin were related to the uncle who was raising us and they became Ms. Angela and Uncle Melvin to me. So it was with great joy in the jubilee year of 2000 that Angela and Melvin Boudreaux went to Rome, met Pope John Paul the Great as he declared her healing as the miracle that allowed Fr. Francis Xavier Seelos to be declared a Blessed.

I learned at an early age that Jesus heals and yes He has powerful intercessors, our friends that help us in presenting our needs to Jesus. Even in today's Gospel, Simon's mother-in-law needed friends and family to bring Jesus to her for healing. And Jesus did come and He did heal. But we learn in the Gospel that Jesus did not come for healing alone. His healing and His cures reveal His purpose: to preach the Good News, to show us how to pray, to bring hope and to save.

Ms. Angela showed me, and all of us, that Jesus is still present in our life now, that He comes to us, He longs to proclaim the Good News to us, He longs to nourish us with His Body and Blood. All we need to do, like Ms. Angela did, is come to Him in prayer, ask Him to heal us of our illnesses and our sins, and yes, solicit the help of His powerful friends, intercessors like Blessed Fr. Francis Xavier Seelos. And when we come to Him, He will show us the Father. Even in the midst of the miraculous cure in today's Gospel, Jesus points to the Father; in prayer and preaching. He will never lead us in any other way than to His Father, our Father.

Ms. Angela found a powerful intercessor, a powerful friend in Blessed Fr. Francis Xavier Seelos. She knew that it was Jesus who healed her, who heals us, who leads us to our Father, her Father, where she rests in His glorious presence today.

May we, inspired by the life of Ms. Angela, and the example of Blessed Fr. Francis Xavier Seelos seek Jesus, to be healed, to be saved and to proclaim that Jesus is Lord. May this be the purpose for which we come; the purpose for which we live.

Blessed Fr. Francis Xavier Seelos, pray for us.

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