You may not have noticed, but every Sunday since Easter,
we’ve looked at a different sacrament.
Baptism on Easter; Confession on Divine Mercy Sunday.
The Holy Eucharist a week later,
when our second graders made their First Communion.
Last Sunday, Deacon Ethan Hoying
gave an outstanding homily on Holy Orders.
And as he explained, bringing the sacraments to God’s People
is what bishops, priests and deacons are meant to do,
because the reason men become priests and deacons
is to get people to heaven;
and the sacraments are God’s toolbox for getting to heaven.
So now you’re wondering, what’s this week’s sacrament?
When I thought about this Gospel – it speaks of “pruning,”
which sounds painful,
and people being cut off from the life of the vine,
that made me think of what happens when we’re ill.
So as you might guess:
I’m going to talk about the Sacrament of Anointing
Let’s talk about what it’s like to be really sick.
Until you have been there, it’s hard to appreciate
what a blow it can be when you lose your health.
Not just that you can’t do something or that you feel bad;
but you’re cut off from others or from your normal routine.
In fact, you’re cut off from yourself, as you’ve known yourself.
What do people say? “I don’t feel like myself.”
Every kid knows what that’s like to spend several days in bed,
while you know your friends are swimming
or playing baseball or riding their bikes.
Even two or three days of that is torture.
But, at that age, you assume you’ll get back out there sooner or later.
Later in life, at a certain point, you get laid low, and then you wonder:
will I get back to who I was?
Losing that sense of yourself can be devastating,
when you suddenly can’t be who you’ve always been.
You can feel as worthless as branch thrown aside to wither.
So it’s really important to hear what Jesus said and let it sink in;
and doubly, triply important, when you’re sick or weakened by age:
“Without me you can do nothing.”
As important a gift as good health is, that isn’t what gives us value.
What makes you and me count is that Jesus chose us;
Jesus came for us; Jesus died for us;
Jesus wants you and me to be part of him, now and forever!
The Sacrament of Anointing is meant for those
who are facing serious illness, serious threats to their life.
Nowhere does the Church say you must wait until your final breaths;
but that’s often how people think of this sacrament.
That’s how the movies depict it –
because a priest will give the sacrament of anointing
even right at the end. Why?
Because this sacrament is intended for healing.
Physical healing is possible – I’ve seen it happen.
So precisely when things are desperate,
of course we’ll pray for a miracle. That’s what Christians do.
So one takeaway here, for everyone; please remember this:
Anyone facing a serious illness or condition can be anointed.
By “serious” I mean, a situation that is dangerous, uncertain.
You don’t have to wait and wait. Call me if you want this sacrament.
This sacrament offers healing; the most important healing
is knowing Jesus is right there with you.
“I am the Vine,” he says: “you are the branches.”
That’s a very comforting thought, isn’t it?
Especially when you put that together with the Cross;
Because it means he’s where we are.
You’re in trouble: he’s there; you’re sick, he’s with you.
If you’re dying – and that day lies ahead for everyone –
You are not alone!
What does Jesus want? “Remain in me,” he tells us.
That is what our Faith is all about.