Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.
When something is broken, it means that it cannot be used for its intended purpose. When a car is broken, it needs to be fixed by a mechanic so that it can be driven. When a pipe is broken, it needs to be fixed by a plumber. When a bone in our bodies is broken, or an organ like our heart or kidneys is broken, these need to be fixed by a doctor.
What about the broken eye, that is addicted to violent movies and inappropriate images? What about the broken mouth, that can’t stop gossiping? What about the broken hands that hurt others? What about the broken mind, that constantly thinks of sin and temptation? A good therapist and a compassionate Spiritual Father can help us get better control of these things. The scars that remain can only be healed by God’s grace.
What about the broken soul, the part of us that loves, hopes, forgives, and expresses faith? No medical test can detect the broken soul, let alone heal it. Sometimes we may know that we are ill in our souls and other times, the words of prayer and Scripture reveal it to us. Sometimes through our own prayer and vigilance we can find spiritual healing, though many times, we cannot. Sometimes the spiritual illness is that we’ve lost the faith (or the strength of faith) we once had. Sometimes it is that our faith is strong but there are cracks in its foundation. And sometimes the illness is that faith hasn’t been yet awakened in us.
There are two things we can say for certainty about the soul. Every soul will struggle, because of temptation, to remain close to God.
I was thinking back recently about people I knew in my life growing up more than forty years ago. If they were my current age when I was a child, then many of them have now passed away. If there is no God, or if they didn’t believe in God, what did their lives mean? If there is no God, they would live only as memories for as long as people who remember them are still alive.
There is a God. Those who believe in God, whose faith is back up by works, combined with God’s grace, will live in heaven after their life on earth is over. The path to salvation works like this. Take a cup, some rocks and some water. The cup represents faith, the structure of what we believe. The rocks represent works. The water represents grace.
If we have faith but we don’t do works, then our faith is as empty as the cup. If we do works but have no faith, our works are like rocks poured out on a table. There is no order or structure or purpose to them. If we take the cup (faith) and fill it with rocks (works), we will still see empty spaces in the cup. It is only when we fill the cup with water that it is truly full.
The water is not poured into the cup in a large amount. It comes in spoonful by spoonful. It comes in through spoonfuls of Holy Communion. It comes in by through the oil of Holy Unction. It comes in through tears of repentance we cry in Confession.
We discussed earlier how the Grace of the Holy Spirit can make something ordinary into something extraordinary. Take oil and add the Grace of the Holy Spirit through prayer and the oil becomes Holy Unction, an extraordinary substance which is then placed upon our senses, for the healing of soul and body. As we leave from this sacrament, we the sinful, ordinary people, are supposed to become extraordinary. We are supposed to feel lightened in soul and encouraged in spirit. We are supposed to feel renewed confidence. If we have received the extraordinary gift of God’s grace through Holy Unction, we are supposed to respond to it by being extraordinary in our lives. We shouldn’t emerge from the service in the same way we entered it. We should take away a renewed spirit, a renewed confidence, a more sure purpose.
Going back to the example of the cup, the rocks and the water, if we separate God’s grace from faith and works, we will always be incomplete. It is the combination of grace, added to our faith and works, that allows the cup of our souls to overflow.
The concluding verse of Psalm 23 says “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6) Our response to being anointed with God’s oil of healing and mercy is a soul that overflows with spiritual joy and renewal. As we leave this sacrament, God’s goodness and mercy can follow us if we allow them to.
God has helped us find a map to our salvation through this sacrament. We must recognize our need for spiritual healing. We must come to the Lord to receive the healing that can only come from Him. One encounter with Christ does not heal us for all time, however. The cycle will repeat. We will sin again. We will need healing again. Each time we sin and each time we are healed, and each time we come away from healing with a stronger desire to remain close to God, the cycle will not be and endless, pointless one. It will lead us to eventually “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
May Holy Unction, through the prayers of reconciliation and the oil of healing, lead us ever closer to the Lord in this life, and to His Heavenly Kingdom for everlasting life.
Don’t settle for ordinary in the eyes of God. Take away a spirit of renewal and go be extraordinary today—in purpose, in love and in faith!
Being a Divine river of mercy, like a fathomless gulf of great loving-kindness, O Merciful One, show forth the Divine streams of Your mercy, and heal all. Let the fountains of miracles gush forth abundantly, and cleanse all; forever resorting unto You, we fervently implore Your Grace. (Kathisma)
To Him be the glory, forever and ever! Amen.