SACRAMENT: THE ANOINTING OF THE SICK
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, spent close to thirty long years in His Private and Family life, mostly in Nazareth. Then, at thirty, He left to enter into His Public Ministry. This period and stage of His life lasted about three years. His suffering on the cross lasted close to three hours from 12 noon until 3:00 p.m.—now known as the Mercy Hour. He spent three days in the tomb, Good Friday until Easter Sunday. Then rose from the dead, glorious and triumphant, to live always and give life to all of His believers in abundance. There in a nutshell we have the Life of Jesus, our Lord God and Savior; a concise, historical perspective and summary.
PUBLIC LIFE ACTIVITIES. During those brief three years of Jesus’ Public Life, He carried out three basic activities: 1) preaching and teaching in abundance; 2) miracles in abundance healing bodily infirmities and even raising the dead to new life, as well as miracles over nature like turning water into wine and walking on water; 3) exorcisms—casting out a devil or devils from those who suffered demonic possession. G.K. Chesterton stated that Jesus moved like a lightning bolt; He wasted no time. Still, Jesus would always find time for prayer, and even long blocks of time, such as praying the whole night before choosing the 12 Apostles.
JESUS: THE DIVINE PHYSICIAN. One of the key roles and activities of Jesus in His Public Ministry was that of Healer; we can call Him the Divine Physician. Not only would He heal the body of the sick person, but even more important, He would heal the soul. The most clear case was when he healed the paralytic. First Jesus forgave the man’s sins (healing his soul), then He restored the man’s limbs.
JESUS THE DIVINE PHYSICIAN CONTINUES HIS WORK. Before ascending into Heaven, where He would sit at the right hand of God the Father, Jesus promised that He would be with us even until the end of time. (Mt. 28: 20) How is it then that Jesus ascends on high and is still with us yesterday, today, and until the end of the world? The response is the following: in His Mystical Body, which we call the Catholic Church.
HIS POWERFUL HEALING AND GRACE. The power and grace of Jesus present to us until the end of the world is available to all who believe and live in Jesus in the Church, and most specifically in the Sacraments.
THREE CATEGORIES OF SACRAMENTS. The Sacraments are external signs instituted by Jesus to confer grace and they are seven in number. They can be divided into three categories: Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion), Service (Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony), and Healing (Penance or Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick).
FROM CONFUSION TO CLARITY OF MIND. Never have we lived in a world with so much information. With good internet service and search-engines, such as Google, we can search out almost any information we want and in a matter of seconds. However, never have we lived in a time and epoch in which there is so much confusion, especially on moral and spiritual matters.
HEALING THROUGH THE SACRAMENT OF THE ANOINTING OF THE SICK. Our theme that we would like to develop today is the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Our style will be didactic, actually catechetical. We will pose simple questions that surface and give a succinct answer with the hope that all who are searching greater clarity on this topic will discover it, relish it, and share it with others.
CONCISE CATECHESIS ON ANOINTING OF THE SICK.
1. WHAT IS THE NAME? Before, the Sacrament was called Extreme Unction. However, more recently, the Sacrament is called “The Anointing of the Sick”.
2. JESUS AND THE SICK. This Sacrament has an intimate relationship and connection with the Public Life of Jesus, the Divine Physician. Not only did Jesus preach and teach, but He went from town to town healing many people of various diseases efficaciously and immediately.
3. MYSTICAL BODY: THE CHURCH. Jesus continues His work and ministry of healing, but now through His Mystical Body which is the Catholic Church. The two Sacraments of Healing are Confession and the Anointing of the Sick.
4. MINISTER OF THE SACRAMENT. Neither a lay person, nor even a Deacon, can administer this Sacrament. It must be administered by a validly ordained Catholic priest. The priest actually represents Jesus, as the Divine Physician.
5. BIBLICAL PASSAGE. Whenever we witness Jesus’ healing, implicitly this points to this Sacrament. However, there is a key passage in the last chapter of the Letter of Saint James that explicitly states the person and purpose of the Sacrament. “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the Church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will save the sick person; and the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.” (James 5: 14-15)
6. FALSE NOTION AND CONCEPT. Unfortunately, due to ignorance and lack of adequate education, many still believe that once an individual receives this anointing, then the Phantom of death is ready to carry the individual away. Quite the contrary, at times, after reception of this Sacrament there is a healing and resurgence of physical strength. It is not the Sacrament of the dead; it is one of the Sacraments of Healing.
7. WHO CAN RECEIVE THIS SACRAMENT? Those who are gravely ill, those who are up in years and debilitated, even those who have to undergo an operation and will be put under with anesthesia.
8. HOW IS THE SACRAMENT OF THE SICK ADMINISTERED? The priest uses a prayer ritual with inspiring and comforting prayers. He places his hands on the head of the sick person and prays briefly in silence. Then the priest anoints the forehead and the hands of the sick person.
9. WHAT ARE THE KEY WORDS—THE FORM OF THE SACRAMENT. Every Sacrament to be valid must have the minister, form and matter. The form or the words for the Sacrament of Anointing to be valid are the following: “Through this Holy Anointing, may the Lord in His love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen” (The forehead is then anointed). The priest proceeds: “May the Lord who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up.” Amen. (The hands are then anointed with holy oil.)
10. THE MATTER. As mentioned above, every Sacrament to be valid must have the minister, form, and matter. The matter for the Anointing of the Sick is the Holy Oil of the Sick that the Bishop blesses always in Holy week.
11. HOW OFTEN, FREQUENCY. “If a sick person who received this anointing recovers their health, they can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. If during the same illness the sick person’s illness becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated. It is fitting to receive the sacrament prior to a serious operation. The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced.“ (CCC #1515)
12. A GOOD PREPARATION. To have recourse to the Sacrament of Confession is an excellent preparation to receive properly the Anointing of the Sick. Both are Sacraments where we encounter Jesus, the Divine Physician.
13. WHAT ARE THE POSITIVE EFFECTS THAT FLOW FROM THIS SACRAMENT?
1) A PARTICULAR GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. It gives great peace, strength, and courage in the face of physical suffering. When suffering visits a sick person, there can come with it the temptation to give into despair. This sacrament bolsters hope and trust in Our Merciful Savior. The devil never goes on vacation. The enemy will often attack with more fierce and violent temptations during moments of sickness. This Sacrament can help ward off the fiery darts of the devil.
2) HEALING. Of course, one of the principal effects is that of healing of soul, but also there can be healing of body, if the Lord so wills, for the salvation of the person. Remember, Jesus is the Divine Physician present especially in this Sacrament.
3) UNION WITH THE PASSION OF CHRIST. Suffering in itself has no intrinsic value. However, if one’s suffering is united to the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus, this suffering has infinite value. The suffering of the sick can serve for the conversion of sinners, the liberation of souls from Purgatory, as well as the sick person’s purification of past sins.
4) ECCLESIAL GRACE. Pope Saint John Paul II taught that our lives either lift the Church up or bring the Church down. By praying and offering one’s suffering in union with the suffering, Passion and death of Jesus, the whole Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, can be sanctified. It is true that we are called to be our brother’s keeper on our way to eternal salvation. The sick and their suffering united to Christ can have infinite redemptive and salvific value for a multitude of souls.
5) PREPARATION FOR THE FINAL JOURNEY. “If the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is given to all who suffer from serious illness and infirmity even more rightly is it given to those at the point of departing from this life; so, it is also called sacramentum exuntium (the sacrament of those who are departing). The Anointing of the Sick completes our conformity to the death and Resurrection of Christ, just as Baptism began it. It completes the holy anointings that marks the whole Christian life, that of Baptism that sealed the new life in us, and that of Confirmation that strengthen us for the combat of this life. The last anointing fortifies the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father’s house.” (CCC 1523)
14. WHAT ABOUT THOSE IN A COMA? This is a very good question: can those who are in a coma, in the state of unconsciousness, receive this Sacrament? The response is YES. Furthermore, if the person in a coma would have desired to go to confession and receive pardon and absolution, then the Sacrament of Anointing serves to pardon and purify sin.
15. THE TRIPLE RITE OF SACRAMENTS. The ideal and desire for every Catholic follower of Christ is to get to Heaven. Of course, it is best to use the most efficacious means—the reception of the Sacraments. There is a continual Rite wherein the gravely ill person can receive three Sacraments in one continual rite or action. The first to be received would be Confession; this would be followed by the Anointing of the Sick; finally, Holy Communion could be received. This is an excellent means to prepare oneself to meet the Lord immediately after death.
16. APOSTOLIC PARDON? WHAT IS IT? Another good question is the reception of what is called the APOSTOLIC PARDON. This great gift from the Church is administered in conjunction with the Anointing of the Sick, actually right after the anointing. Done by the priest, these are the words of the Apostolic Pardon: “Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all the punishments in this life and in the life to come. May he open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.“
17. THE EFFECTS OF THIS PARDON? The Church in its infinite mercy, bounty and goodness, through the merits of the Passion, death and Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ grants us a Plenary Indulgence—meaning that upon death we can have immediate access to Heaven!!!
18. DO NOT PROCRASTINATE WITH THE SICK. All too often we put off; we procrastinate; we delay our duties and obligations. When confronted with the possibility of death, do not delay in calling the priest so that he can hopefully administer these three Sacraments to prepare our loved ones for their last battle against the enemy and their journey to heaven.
19. TRUE LOVE. Saint Thomas Aquinas defines love as willing the good of the other. The greatest good is what? Our eternal salvation! May we teach, promote, and encourage the reception of this often misunderstood Sacrament—the Anointing of the Sick. Be an Apostle of God’s mercy!
20. OUR LADY: HELP OF THE SICK. Let us lift up our gaze to Mary, known under the titles Help of the Sick and Health of the Sick, to pray for us that we will be deeply united to Jesus in His Mystical Body the Church and have frequent recourse to the all the Sacraments which are the most efficacious means to our sanctification and salvation.