Anointing of the Sick
Through the apostle James, Jesus said: “Are there people who are sick among you? Let them send for a priest who will pray over them anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord……” James 5:13
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is for those who are:
- seriously ill (physically or emotionally)
- chronically ill (eg. heart disease, asthma, arthritis…)
- or whose health is impaired by advanced age
The Sacrament can be celebrated perhaps every 6 months or so. It is NOT NECESSARY to celebrate this sacrament immediately before death. To be anointed, or to request an anointing for a loved one or friend, please contact the Parish Office.
Sickness, suffering and death….We have this sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to help us to DEAL with sickness, suffering and death. But why IS there sickness, suffering and death?
- Is God punishing me?
- Can sickness/suffering and death be a punishment, a result of my sin or others’ sin?
- Can it be a blessing?
In the time of Jesus, most people thought that sickness and suffering were frequently the result, the punishment of selfishness and sin. And sometimes it IS (e.g. if you drink too much and drive, you’re responsible for the consequences; if you’re a diabetic and eat all kinds of stuff you’re not supposed to, the consequences, the suffering ARE the result of your actions; if one country lives in luxury allowing another country to live in poverty, the consequences, the suffering ARE the result of actions done or left undone).
Does suffering mean that God is punishing me??? NO. If God is love, then God does not do that. We can understand that theoretically, but to FEEL that is sometimes difficult, especially when we’re in the middle of the loss of our health, the loss of our job, or the loss of one we love. At times like these, we can really wonder.
We can, especially at those times, feel like God is out to get us, because we need to blame somebody for the stuff we don’t understand.
So why is there suffering, pain and sickness in our life and in our world?? That’s a question that’s as old as the human race. For example, the book/story of Job is an attempt at an answer by his community.
Why???? When Job asked that question, God answered it… kind of. God’s answer basically was: “I’m God, and you’re not. So there are some things you just can’t understand right now.” That was how the writer and the community of Job’s time tried to explain it.
Others today say that there is pain and suffering because we are living in an incomplete world that’s still struggling to be what it was ideally created to be; others explain it through the fact that, if we look around us, it’s obvious that we’re born into a lot of goodness but also into a lot of sin and screwed-up values (just watch TV or read the newspapers) which we didn’t necessarily cause, but either have inherited or help contribute to.
But we’re still stuck with the question ‘why?’ If ‘why’ isn’t answered to our satisfaction though, and much of the time it probably won’t be, then maybe it’s important to ask a different question. How?? How do I deal with it all? How do I handle the pain and suffering in my life and in my world?? What do I do to handle it, or help make it better?
There are lots of ways, but it’s different for each of us and for each situation. Much of the time, talking it through helps. Just knowing that we’re not alone in our confusion, in our questions or suffering, somehow helps.
Sometimes, time heals—but usually not by itself. A lot depends on what we DO with the time. If we sit and dwell on our problems/pain, it usually just gets worse.
As Christians, we believe that these are the times that we most need to turn to God in prayer. To holler at God, cry with God, talk with God, about how we can possibly live through this, grow through this, heal and love through this.
And that’s why we have the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick; to remind us that God is present WITHIN those moments of pain and pressure, suffering, sickness and death, just as God was with Jesus, in HIS suffering and pain.
How this sacrament has been understood has changed a lot over the years though. By the middle of the 12th century, it was a sacrament very much linked with death and, consequently, fear, and was thought to be the “Last Rites”.
At the Council of Trent in the 1500s, the bishops tried to refocus this sacrament, and then Vatican Council II in 1964 clearly said that it was the sacrament of the sick and that receiving Eucharist for the last time (Viaticum) is the sacrament of the dying (“last rites”) for those who are able to receive Him.
We believe as a community that Jesus passed on His power to heal TO the community (cf. James 5:13, Lk.9:1, Mrk.6:13) and that healing CAN take place (of body/emotions/attitudes/spirit) within this sacrament.
New life came from His suffering and pain. New life can come from ours too.