Wednesday Witness: Simple Act of Mercy

Five minutes ago, my smart phone buzzed to say a new text message had arrived. This is a fairly frequent occurrence on weekdays, but this was no ordinary text:

Wednesday, May 13, 2020 12:22 PM

Archiocese SPM – Anointing: Please now pray one Our Father for someone suffering from COVID-19 who is about to be anointed in our Archdiocese; one Hail Mary for comfort for the patient’s family; and one Glory Be in thanksgiving for and in protection of the priest and the medical team ministering to the person. Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us! St. Roche, pray for us!

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has set up two text-based prayer groups that anyone can sign up for: The first sends out a message whenever a priest in the archdiocese has been sent to give the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick to a COVID-19 patient who is seriously ill or facing death; the second sends a message whenever a frontline healthcare worker in the archdiocese has asked for prayer support for their work. Instructions for signing up for these prayer lines can be found on the Archdiocese COVID-19 Prayers webpage.

I signed up to support the Anointing Corps on Friday. Within a couple hours, my phone buzzed, and when I saw the message, I choked up. It is easy—in a third-ring suburb, in a Midwestern state that thus far has not been hit as hard as my homestate of Michigan or either of the coasts—to get frustrated with not being able to do what we want, when we want, and to forget that somewhere not far from here, this virus is stealing a life.

I wiped my eyes and prayed.

I have received seven more texts since then—including two overnight last night and the one from the top of this post. That’s not so many, perhaps, but it’s enough to keep me aware of the need for God’s love and mercy for those most affected. And what simpler way to be an instrument of that mercy? In less that two minutes, we can lift an entire family and team of caregivers in real time.

It’s humbling. God does not need our help in His saving work, and honestly, often we fumble in our attempts. But like a good and patient Father, He wants us near, learning and growing in our half-hearted attempts to be like Him.

He Thinks, Therefore I Am

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? — 1 Corinthians 3:16

Yesterday morning I read St. Matthew’s account of the baptism of the Lord. Two things struck me. The first was that, in the Ignatius (Revised Standard Version) Bible I was reading, the translation is somewhat different from the New American version we hear at Mass (linked to above). The New American translation says, “[H]e saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him.” The Revised Standard translation says, “[H]e saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him.”

The difference is small, but struck me as important, because alighting suggests the Holy Spirit came to rest on Jesus and remained with Him. This is reinforced by the first line of the next chapter, which begins just one verse later: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

See that? The Spirit is still with Him, leading Him.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t leave us, either. We talk sometimes about the indelible mark left on our souls by certain of the sacraments, which might leave us with the mistaken notion that God makes an impression on us but doesn’t stick around. But clearly the Spirit did not leave Jesus—in fact, in paragraph 695 of the Catechism, we learn that the Holy Spirit represents the very anointing that signifies Jesus as the Christ, or messiah: the anointed one of God. And He is covered completely by this anointing, as close as oil on skin: “The humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit” (CCC 695). Continue reading

Full of Grace

Annunciation by Paolo de Matteis (1712)

Yesterday was a rare treat: a three-sacrament day. I went to work, then to Confession at lunch time, received a pre-surgery Anointing of the Sick late in the afternoon, then went to evening Mass to receive the Eucharist. Never have I felt so full of grace — and today is the Feast of the Annunciation. Providential?

Then I came home — late, because I was tying up loose ends to be out of the office for awhile. The family had already eaten supper, but we still managed to spend some quality time together before bed. They’ve got Dad’s back with prayers today, as do countless other friends and family members, and a few acquaintances I just barely know. I’m a little embarrassed by the support, but I will never refuse prayers. We are blessed to have such love in our home, in our parish, and in our extended families.

Hernia surgery is supposed to be a pretty routine thing, for the surgeons, at least. Less so for me. I’ve never had any sort of surgery, except the removal of my wisdom teeth before I left for college. That involved local anesthesia and laughing gas; I remember begin vaguely fascinated by the industrial crunching and grinding noises emanating from my own mouth. This is different, and I don’t think I’ll care to know what’s going on as it’s happening.

I’m not a great patient, either. Oh, I’m generally alright (perhaps a little talkative) with doctors and nurses…but on the homefront, I’m more of a Man-Cold kind of guy. My bride, who works from home, is so looking forward to the next few days.

But you know what? This is actually a penitential season, in which we strive to enter more fully into Jesus’s suffering for us. This is an opportunity for me to grow in this regard — to be still, to pray, to suck it up a bit in solidarity with the One who took nails for us.

Ask Jodi at Easter if I manage to pull it off. Much love and many blessings to you this Holy Week and Easter!