February 15, 2015
In the Gospel, Jesus makes a leper clean. Jesus heals. He heals the pain not just of the people of the past, but the pain of the people of today. Some receive physical healing immediately. Others receive healing in stages. Some receive a clear miracle. Others who have dedicated their lives to continuing the healing ministry of the Lord, have developed their own skills and intelligence to be vehicles of the Lord's healing. The union with the Divine Healer is the reason why our doctors, our nurses, and all care givers deserve our respect. All who call out to the Lord are healed. Some are healed physically. Some are healed emotionally, able to accept their condition in life. All receive spiritual healing as they unite their pain to the Cross of Christ.
We, who carry Christ within us, carry within us the one who heals. If we believe in him, if we trust in him, then we refuse to join many people's cry of despair. We recognize that Christ is present when we need him the most, healing our internal and external turmoil.
It is in this context that we can best understand the Sacrament of Anointing, the Sacrament of the Sick. This is Christ being really present in a sacrament at a particular time in our lives when we need his healing power. When we or our loved ones are seriously ill, we are challenged in our faith. The sacrament of the sick gives us the courage to hold on to our faith in the face of this challenge. This sacrament provides healing, sometimes physical, sometimes emotional, and always spiritual. When we feel that no one could possibly understand what we are going through, the Lord will remain with us forever.
The administration of the sacrament of the sick is the reason why your priest visits the hospitals. It is the reason why I am always on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to care for patients in hospital and parishioners who may become seriously ill at home or in any institutions. The sacrament of the sick is a sacrament for the living, not for the dead. Do not wait until a loved one is expiring to call a priest. Do not look for this sacrament just hours after a person has died. The sacrament is ineffective unless it has a live subject who is seeking healing and comfort. When a loved one has died, I, your priest, will often go to the hospital and say the prayers for the dead, but it is too late for the anointing to have any effect. Call me when you know that there is a serious situation, and that a person has not received this sacrament in the last number of months.
When administering the Sacrament of the Sick, I use some of the Oil of the Sick that is blessed at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week by our diocesan bishop. I put some oil on the person's head and hands and says, "Through this Holy Anointing may the Lord in his love and his mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up." In this sacrament the Lord is present as he was to the leper, to the possessed, to the sick, to the crippled, and to all who are hurting.
When a loved one does die, have a funeral Mass or a memorial Mass for him or her. To me, it is one of the saddest things to see a person denied a Mass who had come to Mass every week of their lives. Don't let funeral directors talk you into taking the cheapest route possible and therefore cut out the Church. Cut the fancy coffin or the number of limos, or just have a Memorial Mass after a cremation, but don't deny the loved one the special intercession of Christ on the Cross that is the Mass. Money is not an issue here at Holy Family. We have money to cover in case someone cannot afford to have a funeral Mass, with music and all the stops.
Is it a heavy stuff today? Well, that is what you get when you start with sickness and dying. We have to be realistic, though. Every one of us will die. But that is not the end. Once fully united to the Lord we will love, feel love more than we could ever imagine. And for the time being, yes, it can be frightening. But we are not alone. Jesus is always with us. He is there to protect us from the doubts and despair that plagued the unbelievers. He is there to give us the courage to walk with him to the threshold of a new life. Jesus heals.