Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of January 29, 2006
1st reading: Dt 18:15-20; Psalm 94; 2nd reading: 1 Cor 7:32-35; Gospel: Mk 1:21-28
Today I will take a cue from the readings in order to expound a new topic I have never spoken about.
Paul the apostle, in the second reading, taken from the letter to the Corinthians, offers me a reason for meditation: "I would like you to be without worries" (1 Cor 7:32); it is clearly a conditional, St. Paul well knows that both those who dedicate themselves to the Lord and those who marry have concerns because they are part of our life. We wish those we love to live peacefully and quietly, without worries, but we are the first to know that this is impossible as long as we are on Earth.
In fact, worries are inherent in the human nature because it decayed after sin and appears in history as sick and weak. Illnesses, whatever they may be, and death are the consequences of sin and sooner or later they exercise apprehension over everyone. The Lord in His goodness and in His mercy has come to meet these anxieties of ours, concerning sickness and death, just to help us living in the best way, to overcome the reasons for apprehension and to have the strength to reach the final encounter with Him in the most fitting way.
I told you that I was going to talk about a subject that, at least in my memory, I have never dealt with. I intend to do it today, speaking to you about the Anointing of the Sick and yesterday I gave this sacrament to Marisa: it was Our Lady herself who recommended it, as our sister's health condition suddenly worsened.
I know what you think and now in your heart you may be restless. Some already knew it but it is right that today everyone knows it. We are part of the same community and when some of us are in such situation it is good for the whole community to know it, to accompany with prayer, to show affection and understanding.
Understanding: this is the exact word that I must attribute to Jesus. What was Jesus' attitude towards the sick? If you open the Gospel and even if you read it quickly, many times you will come across the great miracles performed by our Lord. Of course, as the John the Evangelist says, miracles are signs that He is God because only God can raise the dead, only He can heal people who have incurable diseases and Jesus did all this. However, it is equally true that our Lord intervened to help the sick, healing many of them simply because he was driven by His love, mercy and compassion: He was moved to tears in front of the tomb of his friend Lazarus and during the funeral procession of the young son of the widow of Naim.
The Lord therefore wanted this love of him, this delicacy and concern for the sick to remain in the Church, among those he would have called to be his ministers. He instituted the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick so that we could continue to have a respectful and affectionate attitude towards the sick. Mark the Evangelist makes a brief, almost hasty mention of this sacrament, but the one who speaks extensively is the Apostle James. We must keep in mind that the teaching of an apostle in the Sacred Scripture is part of the revelation and therefore must be accepted and believed with faith. Why this sacrament? What are its effects? The Anointing of the Sick generates grace, the grace of being united with the Lord; it generates strength, the strength to be able to endure disease and suffering. Suffering is frightening, our Lord tried and experienced it, for this reason he is resting next to the sick to overcome the fear of those who are suffering; so he instituted a sacrament that gives strength, balance, peace and serenity.
I used the expression: "Anointing of the Sick" which today is the recurring one in the texts of catechism, instead we reject the other expression "Last rites", which can generate fear and despair. Each sacrament is a sign of the merciful love of Christ, therefore it must be loved because it is instituted and willed by him. All sacraments are the effect and consequence of Jesus’ death and passion, they pass through his side, they come out from his side. The Anointing of the Sick must be accepted in this light and not lived only as a function of death; sometimes the Anointing of the Sick has the ability, by the will of God, to restore life.
Yesterday Marisa was dying and today you heard that the Mother of the Eucharist, in the letter of God, said that she has gone through that critical moment; God wanted this, he made use of this. I don't think he allowed all this so I could talk about it to you, but certainly this experience was a drive for me to make you know and accept, in the light of redemption and resurrection, the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
For us, in fact, the last word to be attributed to man is not "He is dead", but "He is risen". Death is an unappealable reality, which every man encounters and experiences, yet, it is not the last reality, the resurrection is, it is the triumph of redemption that will take place in the resurrection of the body.
Then let’s begin to see this sacrament differently, with different eyes, since it is not intended solely for those who are about to die. Probably no one has ever done it but it is enough to have a precarious state of health, giving concern, such as undergoing a risky operation, to receive the Anointing of the Sick.
You can receive this sacrament when you reach an old age, so much so that I am thinking of giving it publicly, if so you wish, to elderly people with poor health, just to make it clear how important it is and how nice it is to experience it in a different light. It is a comfort, an aid, it is the Lord who is approaching and bows to those who suffer.
So let’s include this sacrament in our catechesis, in our industriousness, in our planning that can be publicly given here and conferred to all those who have an age that we assume that they are closer to departure.
Now I would like to give you one final and clear indication. We pray for many intentions, some are suggested by Our Lady, others by the necessities of life, but it would be nice, it would be a manifestation of love and charity if, during the day, we would address, for a brief moment, a thought and a prayer for all those who during the day will be called by our Lord to show to His tribunal.
Isn't this a beautiful act of charity as thousands and thousands of people die every day? I don't ask for a long prayer, an Our Father, a Glory be and a Hail Mary with a final ejaculation are enough. Who knows if many of them will convert, thanks to our prayers, so when our turn comes, and I hope that we will all go to Heaven, they will be the first to welcome us.
Remember, this is one of Our Lady's teachings: God, even after death, still gives all men an opportunity for salvation. Think how good God is! If someone dies and did not repent during his earthly life, we do not know if he was saved because before showing to the divine tribunal, the Lord still grants everyone an opportunity to be saved and repent. This is God's love, this is his mercy, this is the effect of the great Redemption. Then it is in that instant that many gamble their eternity, so a short and small prayer of ours is the greatest good, it is the greatest gift to push and encourage towards eternal salvation the souls that we do not know and, because of ours prayers, we will meet tomorrow in the eternal joy of Heaven.
Think about these things, live in serenity and in peace as much as possible.
Eternal glory to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.