Wednesday in the Twenty-Second Week of Ordinary Time
Some of our seniors will remember a story that Abbot Philip O’Connor told during one of his morning chapter talks in the late 1950’s. Back in those days the abbot gave a chapter talk every morning after the Office of Prime. He said, “A young man, after finishing his lunch, used to hurry from his place of employment to the nearest Catholic Church for a quick visit. Genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament he only had time to say ‘Jesus, this is Jimmy’ and then he had to hurry back. After many such visits a curious priest found out what Jimmy was doing, and he used to watch for him. One day, about the same time he expected Jimmy to arrive, he heard the blast of an automobile horn, the screeching of tires, and the terrible lud thump of metal against flesh and bones. Grabbing the Holy Oils for Anointing the Sick, he rushed outside and saw Jimmy lying in the middle of the road, all twisted and bleeding. While the priest anointed Jimmy, before he died, he heard a voice saying, ‘Jimmy, this is Jesus.”
What a beautiful love story revealing the value of even our shortest prayers, our little acts of love? Over the years it has been retold by many people in various ways and it has even become a classical country song, because it expresses a universal desire to love and be loved by God.
The Anointing of the Sick is one of the most powerful ways in which Jesus expresses his love for us. It was foreshadowed in his healing of Simon’s mother-in-law. The news of that miracle sent a shock wave of excitement throughout the countryside so that all who were sick came at sunset to be healed. But for everyone who was healed that evening there were thousands elsewhere who were not healed. And even those who were cured eventually died. We all need a much deeper healing, one that heals our souls and endures for eternity. For that kind of healing Jesus comes to us in the Anointing of the Sick.
In this sacrament all our sins, mortal and venial, for which we are sorry are forgiven, including whatever penance we owe for having sinned. This great sacrament prepares us to go straight to heaven. What if no priest is available? We can still receive these graces as a sacrament of desire before we die. Knowing this sends a shock wave of excitement through me because I really want to be completely healed and ready to go straight to heaven when I die.