Today Catholic Christians celebrate the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
On this day, we hear about a short story of healing in the Gospel of Mark. Specifically, we read, “A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’ The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.’” (Mark 1: 40-42).
Often when we hear such stories, we think that Jesus’ healing ministry ended when he ascended into heaven. That, however, is incorrect.
On the contrary, Jesus’ healing ministry continues through human beings acting as his instruments. We need to remember, for example, that each of us is a part of the Body of Christ. As such, we are the eyes through which he sees what people need. We are the ears through which he hears the problems of others. We are the hands that he uses to treat and serve others. And most importantly, we are the heart though which compassion and mercy flow to serve those in need. Therefore, the healing ministry of Jesus is alive and well through us.
Today, we look at three people – Priscilla Blum, Jay Weinberg, and Leonard M. Greene – who God touched in a special way. As a result, they used their skills to help serve the sick in a very unique way.
Priscilla Blum was a cancer survivor. As such, she knew very well just how expensive cancer treatment was. She also knew that in addition to the treatment itself, there were many expenses associated with traveling to the one of the nation’s comprehensive cancer treatment centers.
Besides being a cancer survivor, Priscilla was also a licensed pilot who spent much time at the Westchester County Airport in New York. It was at that airport one day in 1981, that Priscilla had a flash of insight. She noticed that some of the many corporation-owned planes that flew in and out of the airport often had empty seats. She thought that it would be a good idea if the corporations would fly cancer patients to their treatment appointments for free in those empty seats, whenever the planes made routine business flights.
So, Priscilla contacted a friend of hers, Jay Weinberg. Jay, who was also a cancer survivor, was doing volunteer work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Jay, who was then the owner of a Mt. Vernon, N.Y. Avis Car Rental franchise, developed a plan to ask corporations to accept patients as guest passengers in their empty seats. They named their endeavor the Corporate Angel Network, or CAN for short.
Priscilla and Jay enlisted the help of Leonard M. Greene, founder and president of Safe Flight Instrument Corporation. And on December 22, 1981, Leonard Greene, who was also a pilot, flew the first CAN passenger from New York to Detroit. This first passenger was eighteen-year old Michael Burnett. He had just had his leg amputated at Sloan Kettering, and he needed more treatment. However, because Christmas was coming, he wanted to be with his family in Detroit. Because of Priscilla, Jay, and Leonard, young Michael’s dream came true.
In time, other corporations heard about the work of Corporate Angel Network, and they signed up. Soon, hundreds of corporations began flying cancer patients from one place to another around the country – for free – in the seats they would have left empty.
Corporate Angel Network has flown thousands of flights, over millions of air miles, thanks to more than four-hundred corporations that saw a need and realized that they could be part of the solution.
From today’s Gospel selection, and from the story of Corporate Angels Network, we can glean many things. Here are just three.
First, Jesus’ healing ministry continues throughout the world via his instruments – you and me. Each of us can play a role in healing – whether it is healing of mind, body, or spirit. We do this in a variety of ways, especially by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Parents participate in the healing ministry in their daily care of their children.
Second, note that the Corporate Angel Network began with an idea of one person. And isn’t that the way most new ventures start? God plants an idea in someone’s head, and the idea germinates. However, having an idea is insufficient in itself.
Third, for a healing ministry to develop, the person with an idea must put it into practice. This always involves enlisting the help of others, for rarely can a single person do everything by himself or herself. The Priscilla had the initial idea, for example, she had the wisdom to enlist Jay, and the two of them had the wisdom to enlist a third person – Leonard – and the three of them had the wisdom to enlist over 400 corporations.
As we continue our life journeys this week, it would be a good idea to reflect on how we are part of the healing process. Perhaps we contribute money in second collections for our sister parish in Honduras. Maybe we give money for our St. Mary Health Center. Maybe we say a kind word to someone whose spirits are depressed. Or perhaps we visit the sick or the imprisoned.
And that is the good news I have for you on this Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2018.
Story source: Guidepost. “Angels Really Fly.” Friends in Deed: Stories About Acts of
Kindness: A Guidepost Book. Nashville, TN: Dimensions for Living, 1997, pp. 176-177.