Weekly Gospel Reflection: Anointing of the Sick
Jesus began his ministry “proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people” (Matthew 4:23). And he gave his apostles authority to share in his saving mission (Matthew 10:1, 8).
The early Church continued to carry on this mission with its saving power for the whole person, body and soul. In the Letter of St. James we read, “Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:14-15).
Jesus continues to carry out this healing power in the Church through the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. We will administer the sacrament following the 8:30 am Mass this Saturday, February 11 – the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, and a World Day for the Sick.
Anointing of the Sick is meant for anyone who is facing a grave illness or is experiencing more seriously the effects of advancing age. The sacrament may be repeated when, in the course of an illness, a person’s condition becomes more serious. It is also fitting to receive the sacrament prior to a serious operation.
Anointing of the Sick gives strength from the Holy Spirit, peace and courage in overcoming the difficulties of one’s illness or advancing frailty. “This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God’s will. Furthermore, ‘if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1520).
The sacrament also gives the sick person a greater union with the passion of Christ. “Suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus” (CCC 1521). The holy oil used in the sacrament is blessed by the bishop each year during Holy Week – a powerful reminder that our sufferings share in Christ’s Paschal Mystery.
While sickness often isolates the sick person, this Sacrament unites him or her more closely to the Church. The prayer of the Church touches this suffering brother or sister, and this person’s suffering “contributes to the sanctification of the Church and to the good of all men for whom the Church suffers and offers herself through Christ to God the Father” (CCC 1522).
Finally, “the Anointing of the Sick completes our conformity to the death and Resurrection of Christ, just as Baptism began it.” When a person is anointed near death, “this last anointing fortifies the end our our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father’s house” (CCC 1523).
The healing and strengthening power of the Sacrament of the Sick remains a powerful sign of the Good News Jesus sends us to proclaim in our world today.