Sermon on Extreme Unction, or the Anointing of the Sick.

Extreme Unction Watercolor

Taken from the letter of St. Paul the Apostle to the Galatians
Gal 5:16-24
Brethren: Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are immorality, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, jealousies, anger, quarrels, factions, parties, envies, murders, drunkenness, carousings, and suchlike. And concerning these I warn you, as I have warned you, that they who do such things will not attain the kingdom of God. But of the fruit of the Spirit is: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such things there is no law. And they who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.


Continuation ✠ of the Holy Gospel according to Matthew
Matt 6:24-33
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: No man serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will stand by the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, what you shall eat; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life a greater thing than the food, and the body than the clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you of much more value than they? But which of you by being anxious about it can add to his stature a single cubit? And as for clothing, why are you anxious? Consider how the lilies of the field grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of those. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which flourishes today but tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more you, O you of little faith! Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or, ‘What shall we drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ – for after all these things the Gentiles seek; – for your Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be given you besides.

Homily by Fr. Carlos Zepeda.

The Apostle St. Paul speaks to us today, of the enmity between our flesh, our animal self, and the soul, our Spiritual self. And that reminds us, that we are constantly in need of The help of God, to overcome the evil inclinations of the Body. This help is all the more necessary when we are in danger of death.
Our Lord in the Gospel speaks to us, about the care of God’s providence for us. And He promises to us, that He will not abandon us in our time of need. He tells us: Seek ye the Kingdom of God First, and in exchange, He binds Himself to watch over our spiritual and bodily health.
Both these topics my dear friends, are a proper introduction to speak about the Sacrament of Extreme Unction.

As I was administering the Sacrament to one of our parishioners, and I explained some of the blessings attached to it, one of the patients said to me, that He had no idea of many of these things. I take that as a sign from our Lord, that it is necessary that we explain to our parishes, this Holy Rite of the Church.

First of all, what is this Sacrament?
When a Catholic is sick or his body is decaying and in danger of Death, He summons the Priest, in order to ask for all the Last Rites.
The Last Rites are actually several, but the most relevant perhaps, is the Sacrament of Extreme Unction.
The Priest then comes, hears the person’s confession, gives them communion if it is possible, and then proceeds to give this person Extreme Unction, which means, that the Priest takes Sacred oils, which were consecrated on Maundy Thursday during Holy Week, and with those oils, he anoints each one of the senses of the sick person, meaning, he touches with the oils, the eyelids, the ears, the nostrils, the mouth, the hands, and feet; while he recites the prayers prescribed to perform the Sacrament.
As He does, many wonderful things happen in the soul.

The Sacrament of Extreme Unction is then, the anointing with Sacred Oils upon the senses of the person, while reciting the prayers prescribed.

What is it that happens on the soul, when you receive Extreme Unction?

First, If there was a mortal sin in your soul, it is forgiven. Just as it would be forgiven had you gone to confession.
Here it is important to distinguish. You still need to confess your sins. If you were to receive extreme unction, while at the same time refusing to confess any sin, while being still able to do so, you would not receive forgiveness.
But if, for example, you are not able to confess anymore, perhaps because your speech is gone, or because there is little time, the Sacrament of Extreme Unction will forgive your mortal sins, as long as you are truly sorry for them.

The second effect is that it forgives also venial sins, if we repent from them. Just like confession does.
And here you might say. “Well… that is not so concerning. I am mostly worried about venial sins.”
Think again. One unforgiven venial sin, with the spiritual damage it carries, could cause you to be several years perhaps in purgatory.
Do you think it would be a small matter? Certainly not. Therefore this effect of our Sacrament is also quite remarkable.

The third effect consists in removing the “remnants” of sin.
I’ll explain. Whenever we sin, we cause damage to our souls. Our Intellect becomes darkened and cloudy, our will becomes weaker and twisted. that makes us fall into sin more easily.
Not only that, but many of the images or memories of sin remain in our minds, becoming another cause of future temptations.
This becomes all the more dangerous at the moment of death, and our final agony, when the devil will definitely try to tempt us and will bring back all these memories, making use of all our weakness to make us fall into sin, if possible, at the last minute.
This beautiful sacrament removes those weaknesses, and gives us strength, restoring our spiritual faculties, so that we are able to better resist temptations, in that final hour.

The fourth effect of the Sacrament is that it removes the punishment due to sin. What that means to say, is that Extreme Unction will remove the time that we had to suffer in purgatory for our forgiven sins.
But this effect depends on the dispositions of the person. In other words, it will only remove the temporal punishment we deserve, in as much as we are truly sorry and repentant for our sins.

And that’s why, even if you receive extreme unction, you might still need to go to purgatory.

Suppose for example, that I am dying, and I receive extreme unction. but there are perhaps some sins that I am not quite as repentant of them as I should be. Maybe I keep a grudge against someone. Maybe jealousies, or some small thefts I don’t even remember, maybe being rude to my siblings or parents, and I never repented of that.
Well, If I was repentant of everything, and I loved God greatly, the Sacrament would forgive all the punishment, and I would go straight to heaven.
But because most of the time we fail to be repentant for such sins, unfortunately, it may happen that the Sacrament doesn’t do for us, as much as it could.

These, my friends, are the four effects of this Sacrament.

I want to tell you a Story, of how the Chinese in the Missions loved this Sacrament.

There was a Priest in China, his name was Fr. Gouet. And He writes in one of His letters, about how much the Chinese cared to receive Extreme Unction. He said, they had such devotion, that any slight sickness would suffice for them to call the Priest. They had a very simple faith in God’s Fatherly care for them. And so they wanted to make use of all the things God had left in the Church for their consolation and happiness. God on His part, in return, would frequently heal them from their illness, through the Sacrament.
In China, as in our days, there were very few Priests. And Fr. writes, that people would be astonished to see, that many times the Chinese would put the sick person, with only a few days to live, on a boat, and send him fifty, eighty or a hundred miles, to the Priest’s location, in order for him to receive the Sacraments.

This, my friends brings us to the next question:

When and how should we receive this sacrament?

Whenever you or a loved one gets seriously sick and comes to a probable danger of Death, the first call should be made to a Priest, to come and administer this Sacrament.
In our current situation it is advisable that this is done in the home, and before going to the Hospital, if time and the illness permits, since with the restrictions given, we run the risk of not being allowed in the rooms of patients, if the hospital chooses to forbid visits.

Two common errors are frequently committed in this regard.
The First is to think that the person must be agonizing, beyond all help. It is actually quite the opposite. The Sacrament of Extreme Unction should be given, when the person is still conscious and in the possession of his faculties. The reason for that is that the more aware the person is, the more fruit he will get from the Sacrament, and as we said, the remission of the pains in purgatory depends on the person’s dispositions.

Another mistake is to fear the coming of the Priest as if it meant a sign of approaching death. But as we have seen, the Sacrament has as its purpose, not only to prepare for death but also to restore health to the sick, should that be God’s will. So we should never fear the coming of the Priest when we are sick.

Let me share with you, some of the things that happen when the Priest comes to give the Last Rites.

Imagine that you are in your bed, sick and in Danger of Death. You summon the Priest.
As He enters the house, the first thing He does is to say: “Peace be to this house”. And then He blesses the house with Holy water, expelling in the process the demons who could trouble you with temptations.
After that Prayer, the Priest will hear your confession, if you are still able to confess, and give you absolution, during which he will pronounce these beautiful words:
“May the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of all the saints, and also whatever good you have done and evil you have endured be cause for the remission of your sins, the increase of grace, and the reward of everlasting life. “
The Priest will pronounce other prayers, will perhaps give you communion, and afterward, He might give you a crucifix, for you to kiss, as an act of love and repentance towards our Lord Jesus Christ.

He will impose His hands on you, saying:
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost! May all power of the devil become extinct in thee through the laying on of my hand and through the invocation of the glorious and blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of St. Joseph, her illustrious spouse, and of all the holy angels, archangels, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and all the other saints. Amen.”
And He will proceed to touch each one of your senses with the Sacred Oil, first, the eyes, saying:
“By this Holy anointing, and His most loving Mercy may the Lord forgive you whatever wrong you have done by the use of your sight. Amen.” And so He will say and do, with each one of your five senses.
After that, the Priest will say some other prayers, but time presses, and I still want to leave you with something to remember and never forget.

I had said that the Sacrament functions, in direct relation to your own dispositions.
And I want you to remember what these dispositions should be.
The First one, is repentance, sorrow for all your sins. Mortal and Venial. Repent from every sin you commit, as soon as you can. don’t wait for confession. And this will prepare you for extreme unction.
Let’s say that someone commits a mortal sin. And repents, but is unable to go to confession. Well, when that person receives extreme unction, they will be forgiven. So the first one, always repent from your sins immediately.
The Second one, make right now, and renew always a desire to receive this sacrament and to die as a Catholic. Because even if perhaps, you were unable to fully or explicitly repent from your sins, but just having this habitual desire to repent and to die as a Christian, will allow the sacrament to act upon you and forgive your sins.
The Third one, repent frequently from your venial sins as well, that their punishment may be forgiven you in extreme unction. And for this, when you go to confession and at the end of your accusation you say, “I repent for all these sins and all the sins of my past life” don’t just say it. Mean it. Each time you do that heartily and devoutly, truly meaning what you say, you prepare yourself for extreme unction.
And finally, make acts of Love of God, and ask Him for His love, and for the grace of receiving this sacrament. The More you Love God, the more you will be forgiven and given, when you receive this sacrament.

My dear friends, let us be grateful for this great gift, such a merciful gift that God has left in His Church for us. Let’s prepare to receive it, and read more about it. Think of what you want to be thinking, feeling, praying, on those last moments, when the Priest will come to you and say:
“By this Holy anointing, and His most loving Mercy may the Lord forgive you whatever wrong you have done. Amen.”

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