By Father Jay Finelli
Just think of what history would have been like if Paul had never converted. What would we think of Paul today? If he’d never converted, he'd be a non-Christian who persecuted the Church. What would have become of him?
There are some historical figures whom we forget. There are others like Hitler toward whom we have bad attitudes, for they committed great evil and never converted. But Paul did convert. Why did he covert? Well, he converted by the grace of God, of course. But who was praying for him? Did he have a mother that maybe was a Christian? We don’t know. Or an aunt or an uncle? Did he have friends who were Christians. maybe secretly? Or was it just the Christians praying for Saul to find the grace to accept the Way, to accept being called to enter into the life of the Church. We won’t know those answers.
In the Acts of the Apostles, there is a reading that is very, very important because it shows us the beginning of the life of the Church. In this reading, Peter and John go to the temple. But they’re not just going to the temple; they’re going at the three o’clock hour. The three o’clock hour was an important time for the Jews just as it is an important time for us Christians. You see, for the Jews, the three o’clock hour was the hour of the sacrifice of the lamb. We know that three o'clock was the hour that the Lamb of God, the Son of God, was sacrificed. He was the actual Lamb that the other sacrificial lambs represented. When Peter and John were going to the temple at the three o'clock hour, they saw a beggar just sitting there, begging day in and day out. What did the beggar expect? What any beggar would expect. "Give me money." He probably had his little can in his hand! But he didn’t get what he expected. He received the unexpected. He received a healing through the Apostles.
If you go to a healing service, what do you expect to receive from the Lord? Do you expect some physical healing, psychological healing, maybe a job or a financial healing? You need to have expectations, because, if you don’t have expectations, if you don’t ask anything from the Lord, then you aren't coming to the healing service with faith. God can give anyway, but we need to ask. He expects that we’re expectant, that we have expectant faith, that we long for something from God.
Now you might come to a healing service for physical healing, and that’s good because God does heal physically. We can go through the Sacred Scriptures, and, regardless of what some modern liberal theologians say, God still works miracles. He never stopped. He’s still multiplying the loaves every day. Every day. His Body and Blood is multiplied, not for five thousand, not for ten thousand people, but for millions of people throughout the world. Jesus healed the sick physically, and He still heals today, but maybe not in the way we expect. Maybe He won’t give us the healing we want.
You know, I’ve been to thousands of healing services. I started back in ’79, that is, I went to Fr. DeOrio. I used to go on Sunday afternoon, and you had to be there at least two hours or three hours before, sometimes four hours before. After that, I started going on Thursday afternoon. Father DiOrio had a healing service on Sunday and one on Thursday. Then I started going to Thursday morning healing services, so I was going to three a week. I went to Fr. George, Fr. DeOrio and other priests and other healing services as well. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced a physical healing.
But I can tell you of one healing that I definitely received, and it wasn’t at a healing service. It was at a Novena of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. I don’t know how old I was--I was maybe about 7, 8, 9 or 10 years old. My aunt and uncle used to go to the Novena of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church every year. They had a cocker spaniel, and I always loved dogs. Every time I’d go to their house, I always loved playing with that dog, and, before you know it, my eyes would be swollen, and someone would have to bring me to the emergency room. I always used to say, "I want a dog." "You can’t have a dog," my parents would say. "You know you’re allergic to dogs." I remember going to that Novena, on its the final day, with my aunt and uncle. You know the Italians--they have this tradition. They go into any new church and make three wishes. So my aunt
says, "What are you going to wish for?" "I’m not going to tell you," I said, but I did tell her later. I said to myself, "Well, let's see. My first wish is I want three more. My second wish is I want three more. And my third wish is I want three more." I went through that about a thousand times, and I kept saying, "I want a dog. I want a dog. I want a dog. I want to become a Veterinarian (well I didn’t get that one).'" But I got the dog! On the way home, my aunt and uncle asked, “What did you wish for?” I said, “I asked God if I could get a dog.” "You can’t have a dog." "But I want a dog." "Well, if your parents will let you, we’ll get you a dog, but if you’re allergic we’ll have to take the dog away from you." And I’ve never been allergic since then to dogs. I’m allergic to cats. That’s OK. Cats and I don’t have the same friendship as dogs and I have. I’ve never been allergic to dogs since that Novena. I attribute that healing to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
See, God still heals, but I guess it takes that faith of a child. I had that faith. If I could have three wishes, I could make three into six, and six into nine, and if there’s nine, then there can be a thousand. That’s how kids think, don’t they? That's really how we have to think with God. We have to be expectant and trust that whatever God gives, He knows what's best. When I was just a kid, God knew that someday I'd need a dog as a companion in the rectory. There's only one priest in a lot of rectories these days. It's good for a priest to have a companion. And my dog is mine!
Whatever God gives us, He knows what we need best and that doesn't always mean money. I’d like to win the Power Ball. I'd give back to Him what He gives to me, but He never let me win the Power Ball. I have a lot of things I want to do. I want to buy the whole neighborhood and turn it into a big church piazza. You go to Europe and see the big piazzas where they have concerts. Those old churches are the center of the village. But I guess God doesn’t want that for the church I pastor.
Ask. Expect. Trust that God's going to give something at a healing service. He might not give that healing you ask for. He didn’t give the beggar what the beggar wanted. He gave something better. That beggar was there for how many years. I wonder how old he was or what he looked like. The people avoided him. Probably he couldn’t do anything for himself. He might have been smelly, dressed in dirty clothes. But the Lord gave him everything he needed. After that he got up to go home, and he could take care of himself. He didn’t need the money. After that he could get a job to earn his own money, to take care of himself.
The Lord knows what we need the most. Maybe you need a healing that’s physical. Maybe He won’t give you a physical healing. Maybe He’ll give you the grace that you need to deal with your suffering, to offer it in union with Him for the salvation of this world. How’s that? This world needs salvation more than ever. You know what? There are a lot of people out there who are victim souls now a days. Jesus doesn’t heal everyone. Some are suffering in union with His cross. Or maybe you’ll pray for one physical healing, and He’ll give you something that you don’t expect or you don’t think to ask for that you know you need, and you find out later on that you needed it. Or maybe He’ll give you the healing, but He’s going to make you wait for it. Or maybe you’ll never know what healing He gives you. Maybe it will be a spiritual healing. You’ll have a deeper desire to spend time with
the Lord exposed in the Blessed Sacrament. That would be a great healing, wouldn’t it? To have a greater desire to be with the Lord in the Eucharist. Have a greater desire to go to confession more frequently. Have a greater desire to bring Jesus deeper into your life. Maybe the grace you need to overcome a certain sin or fault or failure. Maybe the grace is to forgive someone in your life that you have a hard time forgiving.
The healings are endless because God knows everything we need. We all have needs. I have needs. You have needs. Everybody at a healing service has needs. But the Lord knows what we need more than anything, and He’ll provide that. He took away my allergy to dogs. Now I wish He’d work on the allergy to the trees, the grass, the flowers! You know, I keep asking. "What’s the matter with you, Lord?" In fact I was at my priestly retreat last year, and, before our healing service, I was talking to Eileen George who led our priest retreat. I might have put something in her head because, at the healing service, she looked at me and said, “Allergy healing.” Maybe I received one allergy healing, but I need the rest of them, too. So I went to her afterwards and said, “Was that for me?” She said, "Yes. Now you’ve got to claim it, but you’d better to do what the doctor says." Well, this is a funny story because I went to the doctor and said, “I’ve been healed.” And I didn’t go back for my allergy shots for over a month. It was not too surprising that I had no reactions because it was the winter. Then I went back and said, "I want to be tested. I’m healed." I rolled up my sleeve, and they did the tests while you sit there and are NOT supposed to scratch. Well, everything exploded again! So when a little group from our parish and some from other parishes went to a retreat that Eileen conducted down in Pennsylvania, I showed up there. On Wednesday and Thursday evening is the healing service. I know the gifts that Eileen has, and I know she can read hearts, so I’m saying, “Father tell Eileen, 'What about that healing you told me I had?'" I kept saying that. "Let her hear what I’m saying." You know, she walked from the other end of the hall, looked at me and said, “You’ve got all the healing you’re going to get.” And then she turned around and walked away from me. Thank the Lord!
Maybe I got some other healing that I don’t know I received. Who knows? There may be an allergy that I was healed of that I didn’t even know I had. Who knows? I know my father used to be allergic to bees most of his life. Maybe I was allergic, too, and I didn’t know and I was healed. But see--God knows what we need more than we know what we need ourselves. In fact, He knows our true needs, and we know our superficial needs. He’s going to reach out to each one of us and touch us, and that’s what we need: God’s touch. God’s presence deeper in our lives. Remember the people whom Jesus healed, the ones the disciples healed. They went around, rejoicing, telling everyone that they were healed. Healing needs to include rejoicing. Healing isn't limited to what happened in Sacred Scripture. Healing is all about giving glory to the Lord God. What does Jesus say to everyone He healed? "Go and show yourself to the priest and offer what needs to be offered for that healing." In the Book of Acts, those healed went into the temple to give thanks to the Lord and then they told everyone else what God did.
Healing is about entering into a deeper relationship with the Lord, especially in the sacraments. It's about us being witnesses to the Gospel. Sharing our faith with others. Letting others know that Jesus loves them. Letting others know that Jesus calls us to live for Him, to be faithful to Him and to bring each into a deeper union with Him. So if you feel that you didn’t get anything after a healing service is over, you did. You might not know it. God might be doing something you don’t expect Him to do, and it might take a while for you to know what that is. So, ask Him for what you want to ask Him, but just have an open heart for anything He wants to give. God might give what you want, but He might give something else, something you didn't ask for. And that might be the best healing of all.