The Anointing of the Sick
By: Allison Ramirez
This coming Friday (July 1st), St. Barbara’s will be offering our monthly opportunity to receive the Anointing of the Sick following the 9am, daily mass. The Anointing of the Sick is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, but it perhaps one not as commonly talked about as the other sacraments. The Anointing of the Sick is one of two healing sacraments, the other being the sacrament of confession/reconciliation. The church calls Jesus “The Divine Physician,” meaning he heals us spiritually and physically. We take this from Jesus’ words “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.” (Matthew 9:12, Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31). We see numerous examples in scripture of Jesus offering healing both physical (giving sight to the blind, allowing the lame to walk) as well as providing spiritual healing (often curing people possessed by demons.) The anointing of the sick is most often given to those who are facing death, a chronic illness, or those about to undergo surgery, but the sacrament can also be administered to the elderly and those experiencing an injury or mental health concern, to name a few other appropriate instances.
According to Article 1499 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering of the glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ.
It is important to note that this sacrament (along with all the sacraments) is meant to be liturgical and communal in nature, a celebration not just between Christ and that person(s) but between Christ, the recipient of the sacrament, and the entire Church body which is why the Anointing of the Sick is often accompanied by the reception of Holy Communion, a sign that the person is one with the whole Body of Christ.
It is also important to note that the laying on of hands and anointing with oil, both outward signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit, are important actions associated with this sacrament. When Jesus healed the sick, his healing involved touching or being touched by the person desiring to be healed including either though placing a hand upon them, or using other physical elements such as mud as part of the healing. This is why the priest (acting in the person of Christ) places hands over the sick person and anoints them with oil, which in both the Old and New Testament is a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit coming upon the person being anointed. By calling upon the Holy Spirit, we invoke his presence and thus his gifts such as strength, courage, comfort and peace for the person who is sick or ill. As well, through this sacrament, the individual is invited to unite their sufferings with the passion of Christ on the cross as according to Article 1521 of the Catechism:
By the grace of this sacrament, the sick person receives the strength and the gift of uniting himself more closely to Christ’s Passion: in a certain way he is consecrated to bear fruit by configuration to the Savior’s redemptive Passion. Suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus.
This sacrament is a prayer for physical and spiritual healing for the person who receives it, but regardless of the health outcome, the person is uplifted and drawn closer into the loving embrace of the Church who desires to walk with and minister to them during their most challenging times.
For a more in-depth study on this sacrament, read pages 375-382 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.