Holy Wednesday – The PoorFr. Barnabas Powell
On this Holy Wednesday:
Let us pray to the Lord,
O Lord who, in Your mercies and bounties, heals the disorders of our souls and bodies, do, the same Master, sanctify this Oil, that it may be effectual for those who shall be anointed therewith, unto healing, and unto relief from every passion, every malady of the flesh and of the spirit, and every ill; and that therein may be glorified Your most Holy Name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Today we approach the grace of God in His Church as the Church offers us the continuation of the healing ministry of our Lord Jesus. In the Holy Unction service we come for healing, but not just physical healing, but complete healing of soul and body. This holy oil sacramentally brings us close to Him Who is our healing, but not just healing our physical needs. This healing is meant to “solve” the only poverty that is eternal, and that is a poverty of soul!
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Matthew 26:6-16:
When Jesus was at Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment and she poured it on his head, as he sat at table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
All too often we are tempted by magical thinking and think that if I simply go and get the “magic” oil then God is somehow obligated to make me feel better. But this reduction of the divine mystery of Holy Unction can never rise to the lofty reality of the mystery of the Church. This shallow thinking leaves us in our poverty! This shallow thinking makes betrayal of our Lord and His Church possible in our hearts! This shallow thinking leads is to actually give a “kiss as did Judas” and betray our faith for the fool’s gold of temporary riches!
The truth is all the divine mysteries of the Church do only one thing! From the Eucharist, to Marriage, to Ordination, to Baptism, to Unction, to Chrismation, to Confession, and to all the other ways God communicates His grace to us; these divine mysteries accomplish one necessary task! They bring us into intimate communion with God Who IS our Healing, our Life, our Salvation, and our only true Lover, and our greatest Treasure! The mysteries of the Church bring us closer to God and it is this closeness, this intimate connection with God that heals, and saves, and gives life to us as we participate in the life of the Church.
TODAY we receive Him Who is our healing in the mystery of holy oil. This isn’t some “magic” formula or rite performed by the tribal medicine man to make your headache go away. This is nothing less than the being brought close to Him Whose footsteps in the Garden struck fear in the hearts of Adam and Eve when they disobeyed. But now we are able, by the grace of God, to once again intimately walk with Him in His kingdom and bask in the spiritual riches that make us wealthy beyond measure!
As you approach the Holy Oil today, rejoice that God Himself comes to you to heal all your diseases, especially the ones in our hearts. Blessed Holy Wednesday to you! Finish well!