On Friday, June 19, we celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and then on Saturday, June 20, we celebrated the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Feast of the Sacred Heart us always on the Friday after Corpus Christi, and the Feast of the Immaculate Heart is always the next day. For us the heart symbolizes passion, emotion, and love. In ancient Hebrew culture the heart was the center of both emotion and wisdom. Understanding comes from the heart and leads directly to action. The Greatest Commandment in the Law is “to love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” To love someone with all of your heart is not only to have an emotional, passionate love for them, but also to love them with wisdom and understanding which leads you to try to actually do good for them.
In the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus we’re reminded that our Lord has that kind of love for us. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became incarnate by taking on a human nature out of love for us. We see the passionate, emotional love of Jesus when He has pity on the widow who’s just lost her only son, when He heals the lepers, and when He weeps at the death of His friend, Lazarus. We also see His love for us and, more importantly, for His Heavenly Father, in His anger at the dishonor shown to the Temple when He drove out the money changers. Love can be shown not only through acts of kindness and generosity but in righteous anger at injustice and in offering correction. Finally, though, Christ shows the depths of His love for us in offering His life on the Cross. As our Lord said, “Greater love than this has no man, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
That feast is followed on the very next day by the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Blessed Mother represents the Church and the love that the Church is called to have for Christ. The Blessed Mother is completely devoted to her Son. In the Gospels she is always with Christ, she is always bringing peoples attention to Christ, and she’s always pondering His words in her heart. She is the Immaculate Heart because she was conceived in a state of grace, meaning without original sin, and she never sinned during her life. The Church is also “holy” and without sin because she is the Body of Christ and is filled with the Holy Spirit, but we the members of the Church must still struggle with temptation and sin. We are called to the sort of love that our Blessed Mother has for Christ. We are called to the perfection of faith, even though we know that we won’t get there during this life. However, we must still strive for it. Why did Ferdinand Magellan try to circumnavigate the world even though everyone who’d tried before Him had failed? Why did Edmund Hillary try to climb Mt. Everest when so many people had died trying? Why does mankind keep going back to space, to the moon, or even to other planets? If these things are worth dedicating your life to, then how much more is it worth it to dedicate your life to God?
I’m republishing this Pastor’s Bulletin to emphasize the importance of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, which is often the last opportunity to receive sacramental grace, have our sins forgiven, and be reconciled to God.
From the Pastor’s Archive: December 31, 2017
Anointing of the Sick
The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is one of the most misunderstood sacraments. It is often called Extreme Unction, which literally means “last anointing.” If baptism is the first anointing, then the anointing of the sick is the last anointing. It is also confused with the Last Rites, although it is really only one part of the last rites.
Anointing of the Sick is for anyone who begins to be in danger of death from illness, injury, or old age. So, for example, if you are diagnosed with cancer you can be anointed as soon as you are diagnosed. You don’t have to wait until you are in grave danger of dying. In the sacrament the priest will pray over the sick or injured person, lays hands on them (usually on their head), and anoints the forehead and hands with the Oil of the Sick, which is one of the Holy Oils blessed by the bishop during Holy Week every year and distributed to all of the parishes. Only a priest or bishop can give the sacrament of anointing.
In the sacrament we pray for 2 things. First, and most importantly, is spiritual healing and strength. Injury and illness can be a very dangerous time spiritually, especially as we approach death, and we need extra help from God during those times. Through the anointing our venial sins are forgiven, our faith and hope are increased, and we are given sanctifying grace. Some of the graces we might pray for through the sacrament are comfort and consolation, perseverance, courage, and the knowledge of God’s presence with us. Second, we also pray for physical healing, either through the skills of doctors and nurses, or miraculously. However, we also know that this is not always given, so we pray as Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will.” Even Christ prayed to be spared the suffering of the Cross, but He also accepted the will of God; we should follow His example.
The Sacrament of Anointing, like all of the sacraments, gets it’s power from the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. In our suffering we may be tempted to lose hope, to lose faith in God, or to give up, but in the Sacrament Christ gives us His strength. He reminds us of His promise to His disciples, “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.