The Malta Independent 19 September 2019, Thursday

Opinion - Ta’ Pinu: A clinic for the spirit - Bishop Grech

Bishop Mario Grech Thursday, 15 August 2019, 10:16 Last update: about 2 months ago

We find at Cana two embarrassed, newly married spouses, caught unexpectedly with a shortage of wine. When they realised what had happened, I imagine they felt they simply wanted to disappear from sight! But when Jesus intervened, he not only supplied them with wine but he also put their minds at rest and filled them with hope. In a manner of speaking, in the miracle at Cana Jesus was not simply the one who fills jars with wine but the doctor who heals this couple’s broken and bruised heart.

For many of the Fathers of the Church, Jesus is the doctor. St Ambrose writes that “Christ’s word is the medicine which can heal wounds”. And in St Augustine’s words, “Jesus is the doctor of conscience carrying a healing blade in his hand, and this blade is his word”. While Christ is the “archiatrus”, he has passed this mission on to others. Origen maintains that this medical calling has been received as well by the successors of the Apostles who form part of the Church and who have been entrusted with the mission of healing wounds. If the successors of the Apostles are also “doctors of the Spirit” we will be right in maintaining that Mary, Queen of the Apostles, is an expert when it comes to healing wounded man.

In fact Christ the doctor was not on his own at Cana: he had with him his Mother Mary. In asking Jesus to help the spouses, I imagine her to be the “nurse” accompanying the doctor on his ward rounds. In Mary we find all the necessary qualifications of a good nurse: besides having excellent bedside manners, endowed as she is with the feminine genius, she is the Mother of those needing a doctor’s care. Which mother will ignore her sick child or not entrust it to the doctor’s care, the more so when the doctor is her own Son?

It is in this context that today I see in the Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary what Pope Saint Paul VI calls “the clinic of the Spirit”: “He who at parish level might not come forward to receive God’s grace, should take courage and go to Mary”. Pope Francis recently echoed the same idea when he said that “sanctuaries are almost sacramental locations of a hospital Church on the battlefield, safeguarding the memory of a faithful people, never tiring, in all its trials, of looking for the source of living water in order to renew its hope”. Yes, Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary is a “clinic of the Spirit” where Christ the doctor and Mary the nurse are in attendance.

When earlier this year we inaugurated the Marian Year, my idea was that as the Church in Gozo we would send out a strong signal reminding one and all that we have here this “clinic” which welcomes anyone feeling his strength waning – his physical, affective, psychological, moral or spiritual strength. In addition to physical sickness there are diseases which are wearing down marriages as well as our families, diseases which are decimating the younger generation, diseases which are violently shaking our social structures, diseases which are clouding our vision of human dignity, diseases which are causing our economy to rot away, diseases which render our thinkers and scientists confused, diseases which have struck the Church and her people.

Everyone is welcome in this clinic – both those who are near as well as those who are far, both those who are practicing Christians and those who have abandoned their faith, both those who are baptised and those who have different beliefs, both those who are victims of the evil wrought by others and those who are responsible for the evil perpetrated.

Nobody should despair of healing, even if one has been in the grip of a disease for long years. There is no sickness that cannot be cured, even if the world’s experts are at their wits’ ends: we can find refuge in this clinic just the same because the doctor (Jesus) is God and the nurse (Mary) is the Mother of God. We might not receive the kind of healing we desire, but, as Saint Justin says, the fact that Jesus is near us and we feel him carrying part of our suffering, that is already a medicine in itself.

Just as at Cana Mary took it upon herself to plead for healing with Jesus for those spouses, so in this clinic-Sanctuary of Ta’ Pinu Mary keeps on bringing us closer to Jesus so that he may administer medicine for our healing. Let it be known that here at Ta’ Pinu we have a “Hospital Church on the battlefield” where Mary as the nurse, full of tenderness and love, is ready to welcome and hear out anyone overcome by the weight of disease, and bring him to Jesus, the very one who Clement of Alexandria called “the doctor who heals man’s infirmity and wins over the sick soul”. We would be gravely mistaken to think that one would have to be already healed in order to enter Mary’s home: it is unfortunate that there are those who stay out because they are aware of their sickness, particularly of spiritual and moral sickness. I repeat once more: the Sanctuary of Ta’ Pinu is a “hospital” and a “clinic” with its doors wide open in order to kindle hope in the heart of those who would have lost it.  Just as in the case of every hospital, this Sanctuary never closes its doors. It is my wish that the opening hours of this Sanctuary be lengthened to reflect the needs of contemporary society.

 

Mgr Mario Grech is the Bishop of Gozo

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