Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sermon of Fr. Gerard for the 23rd Sunday After Pentecost

Today's Gospel of the raising from the dead of the ruler's daughter brings to mind the thought of the sacrament of Extreme Unction. When we think of Jesus at the bedside of Jairus' daughter, this is the name of that ruler which we know from another Gospel narritave of this event, reminds us that Jesus would never abandon us at the crucial moments of our lives. He wishes at all times to give life to our souls. He was at our spiritual birth because it was not Paul or Peter that baptizes, but Christ. He is present when two lives are joined into one in the sacrament of Matrimony. Can you imagine that he will be absent at the most difficult moment of all, that of our passing from this life? No, he will be there in the sacrament of Extreme Unction, which is the last annointing of the sick.

The elements of this sacrament are described by one of the Apostles, St. James in his Epistle and we will take it by his definition, by phrase. The first phrase, St James says to introduce this subject, "Is anyone sick among you? We mean here a sickness which implies a danger of death. When over and above the sorrows of the illness and it's pains, we have to put our conscience in order to face the last assaults of the devil." Then he says: "Let him bring in the priests of the Church. Why should we fear those who come to us in the name of Christ?" We would send for a doctor, perhaps a lawyer to make the will. Should we be afraid of a visit which would always bring courage and peace to the sick person, since for that reason, Christ insituted this sacrament and how careless and afraid people can be, it is a great crime to those we love to deprive them of the sacraments at such a time. You might say that they always lived a good life but God is the ultimate judge of that, not man.

An older priest used to say that some people thought that, or think that when you call for the priest for the last rights it's like a death sentence and there is no hope. But actually, it's just the opposite because often times the graces of the sacraments recieved produce a return to health, at least temporarily. St. James continues: "Let them pray over him." The priest prays because the sacrament is made in two parts: matter and form, that is the things used and the words said. But let the sick man also pray because the sacrament are bestowed on the living, not upon stones. The sick person must want to recieve them and even long to recieve them, if possible, have a strong desire. St. James continues: "Annointing them with oil in the name of the Lord." In ancient times, oil formed a part of most medicines, it was also used to anoint the bodies of athletes from which came the two ideas of the healing ointment and the giving of strength. One thing about the oil of the enferm which is used in Extreme Unction, this is blessed by the bishop on Holy Thursday, but the tradition actually goes back to the last supper when Christ was instituting the sacrament of Holy Orders, he also instructed the Apostles on the consecration of the oils which are used in the sacraments Holy Chrism, holy oil which is used in baptism and other special blessings, the ordination of priests and the oil of the annointing of the sick (Extreme Unction).

St. James continues: "The prayer of faith shall save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up." The sacraments produce the effects they symbolize, here the symbolism is very clear, a healing and a giving of strength. It is not a medicine against death, but rather a help to die well. That is where the first effect of the sacrament of Extreme Unction is the giving of grace as all sacraments do, then help to give strength against temptation, help to die in the peace of Christ and to save one's soul. The forgiving of sins, if there are any left to forgive after absolution, is a second effect of this sacrament, as confirmation completes and strengthens the effects of baptism, so the annointing of the sick, as the sacrament of Extreme Unction is sometimes called, completes and perfects the sacrament of penience, it removes the remains of sin that may be on the soul and even lessens the depth of temporal punishment which might be due and in the case that someone was in the state of serious sin and absolution could not be given for some reason, the sacrament of Extreme Unction will take away serious sin even, as long as the person at least habituate the imperfect contrition. A third effect of the sacrament of Extreme Unction is the restoration of health, if God sees that it is expediant. But we must not ask God for miracles unless we do our part. Therefore, Extreme Unction should be given if there is a real danger of death. It doesn't have to be the last extremity. It can then play it's part together with the medicines given by the doctor apart from any other reason, the peace of soul the sacrament brings helps the natural means of cure.

Many priests, and myself included, have seen the benefit of this sacrament when bestowed, when someone still has the use of their faculties, when they are still concious of what is happening to them, and the danger that they are in. Such people have commented that this sacrament gave them a great feeling of peace, and this peace helping with the physical improvement sometimes can last a very long time. The elderly priest that I mentioned before, in a sermon on Extreme Unction, said that he gave one woman Extreme Unction and burried her twenty years later. So she got so well that she lived another twenty years. There was a case of one man, whom I annointed on numberous occasions in Omaha, Nebraska, when I was stationed there, he seemed to last about six months between recieving the sacrament before he had another crisis and the last time I didn't get to his bedside as quickly as I had on the previous occasions and so he was at the lest extremity when I was finally able to go. His blood oxygen was so low that he was in and out of conciousness, but after I gave him Extreme Unction, his blood oxygen actually went above the normal level and he had a good three or four hours to make his farewells, say his goodbyes to his family before he actually succombed to his illness and died.

"The prayer of faith shall save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up," continues the last part of his passage from St. James, "the sacraments produce the effects they symbolize, here the symbolism is very clear, a healing and a giving of strength." Therefore, it should not be left to the last moment or until the sick person is unconcious. Extreme Unction can be administered to those who are not concious, even to those who are apparently dead, as long as the body is still warm. What a pity not to take full advantage of it by recieving it early in a serious illness. That is why a priest should be called when a person dies suddenly.

There was the case of a student from Mount St. Michael's in Spokane, Washington who was killed in a car wreck on his way home and the preist was called and his body was still warm. In fact, one of the EMTs hooked up a brain monitor of some sort to see if he was still alive and there was activity for quite a while until the priest came and gave him the Extreme Unction, this young man was wearing his brown scapular. Another young man, who was in the vehicle, died but I don't know if he was wearing his scapular but when the priest came his body was already cold because it was a rainy night and this is why the accident happend. The boy's body, whose truck it was, was actually warm until the priest came so that he could recieve the Extreme Unction and his mother, when he didn't come home on time, prayed to Our Lady that she would hold her child and keep him and who knows if Our Blessed Mother was actually present there keeping the soul of this young man in his body until the priest came to give him Extreme Unction.

Let us call Christ to our sickbeds, nothing but good can come from such a visit, if not the return to a certain degree of health, at least the spiritual strength of the sacrament, the consolation of the sacrament, as the last sacraments are often called. The consulations of the Church and help to die at peace with God in the peace of Christ.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.


Our Lady of Lourdes, Fontana, CA said...

Website Editor's comment:
I would like to begin by giving thanks to Fr. Gerard for this special and very informative homily. The sacrament of Extreme Unction through the centuries has been one of the most crucial sacraments that the Church and her faithful have observed. Unfortunately, the Novus Ordo has abused this sacrament for they teach that you don't have to be seriously ill to recieve this sacrament. Now, even if there is physically nothing wrong with you they can give you this sacrament if you are having spiritual trouble of some type. The matter and form still remain the same in the Novus Ordo BUT the "priest" who performs the sacrament is likely to be invalid and therefore the sacrament itself is invalid because only a priest or a bishop can perform this sacrament.
I once recieved the "sacrament" seven years ago when I was to go in for surgery for my right shoulder. My mother, who is brainwashed by the Novus Ordo double talk, convinced a Novus Ordo "priest" Fr. Joe Tito of Baltic, Connecticut to hear my confession and give me the last rights. I recieved them shamelessly for at the time I didn't know then what I know now. Of course, I am at no fault of any kind of sin because first of all, the Novus Ordo sacraments are invalid to begin with and I did not know it then. Had I known better then, I would have denied my mother's request, even if it meant breaking the 4th commandment. As proof of this sacrilige I went into surgery again for my left shoulder 18 months later, this time without the last rights, and I left the hospital sooner than the first time. Because the Novus Ordo usage of the last rights are illicit, if not invalid, they don't do anything for you, not even for your soul and it is dangerous to believe otherwise.

gallicman1 said...

Great summary. Lots of work. Keep up the good work . May God bless you.

You have it better that most. Most Catholics have entire families who are stuck in the Novus Ordo, don't go to Mass and don't even know it.