It was great to welcome Fr. Gustave, SMA back to St. Bart’s last weekend as he was visiting the United States, and to have him celebrate the 8:00 Mass. As a result, I had the opportunity to preach at only one Mass last weekend. I wanted to share, in the bulletin, just a few thoughts from that homily.
I have mentioned a few times this past year the importance of, when possible, not waiting until a person is at the moment of death to call a priest for the Anointing of the Sick. As we hear in these weeks the “Bread of Life Discourse” of Jesus from John’s Gospel, a wonderful theological reflection on the Eucharist, it is important to remember that the Anointing of the Sick is not intended to be the last sacrament a person receives before leaving this world. Rather, it is the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and to receive that one must be conscious. The Eucharist, when received as one is preparing to depart this life and go home to the Father, is known as Viaticum, or “Food for the journey.” It nourishes us for the passing over from one life to the next.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that the Eucharist “is the seed of eternal life and the power of the Resurrection,” and, “It is the Sacrament of Christ once dead and now living” (CCC, 1524). The Catechism goes on to compare our entrance into eternal life with our entrance into the life of God and of the Church by noting that both are marked by three sacraments (CCC, 1525). The three Sacraments of Initiation are Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. By each of these we become more intimately bound in communion with Christ and his Church. Likewise, when possible, the ideal for someone preparing to enter into eternal life with Christ is to have the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance, then be given the Anointing of the Sick, and finally to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.