Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost—16 August AD 2015

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

“He bound up his wounds pouring in oil and wine.”[1]

    To Western ears it may sound a little strange to hear about first aid being conducted with wine and oil.  The wine is mildly antiseptic, with the alcohol serving to keep germs from infecting the wounds.  Olive oil tends to soothe the cuts and scrapes.  My own Grandmother was from a Mediterranean country, and olive oil was her remedy of choice for every ailment known to man—swallow a few spoons full, or rub it in wherever it hurts.  Modern science holds it to be a source of some important vitamins and antioxidants.[2]

    These robust curative powers may well be the reason why our Lord designated olive oil as the outward sign accompanying several of His Sacraments.  The most obvious example is, of course, the Unction of the Sick.  We read that our Lord sent His disciples to the places He planned to visit, “And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.”[3]  Saint James is, perhaps, a little more explicit in his epistle, and there is no doubt that he is writing about the Sacrament: 

[14] Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. [15] And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man: and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him.[4]

    From Saint James we learn that this holy anointing is a remedy for both soul and body.  The Council of Trent explains that at work is:

… the grace of the Holy Ghost; whose anointing cleanses away sins, if there be any still to be expiated, as also the remains of sins; and raises up and strengthens the soul of the sick person, by exciting in him a great confidence in the divine mercy; whereby the sick [person] being supported, bears more easily the inconveniences and pains of his sickness; and more readily resists the temptations of the devil who lies in wait for his heel; and at times obtains bodily health, when expedient for the welfare of the soul.[5]

    If one is seriously ill (or is tending to someone who is seriously ill), the priest should be called at the first opportunity.  Don’t put the call off, waiting to see whether the illness gets better or worse.  It is not always possible to get through directly to the priest, so leaving as much lead time as possible is a wise thing to do.  Also, not waiting until the patient becomes unconscious will allow the priest to hear his Confession and to give him Holy Communion before the Anointing—that is the proper and preferred order of things.  When you call, let the priest know that the patient is conscious or not.  Don’t worry about niceties like having blessed candles or holy water available.

    Following the Anointing, the priest will confer the Apostolic Blessing, by which the Holy See grants the patient a plenary indulgence at the moment of death.  Since the patient is presumed to be in danger of death from their illness, any priest may administer the Sacrament and the Apostolic Blessing—even a very bad priest, but only a priest and not a deacon.

    Like all of the Sacraments, it is Jesus Christ Himself who operates through the actions of the minister of the Sacrament.  The Samaritans were foreign invaders in Israel, despised by the Jewish people.  But the Good Samaritan is a symbol or “type” of our Lord.  He too was despised by many of these people, but all men and women are His neighbors.  Through the priests of His Catholic Church He ministers to all of us—washing us with the saving waters of Baptism, nourishing us with His Body and Blood, forgiving our sins, and healing our wounds with His Holy Oil.  Through all of the members of His Church He is neighbor to everyone with the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

    And perhaps the greatest work of mercy we can perform for our neighbors is to see to it that none of them die without receiving the Sacraments.  Our Lord is the Good Samaritan, and “He [binds] up [our] wounds pouring in oil and wine.”


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