Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Catholic Sacraments: Anointing the Sick

by M. J. Joachim

"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call the presbyters of the Church and let them pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord," (James 5: 14-15). Wait, did Jesus say anyone? No, no that can't be what He meant. Catholics reserve sacraments for special occasions, right? Being sick is such an ordinary event, unless you are dying.
Catholics actually are invited to receive sacraments a lot more often than anyone realizes. There are four sacraments you are only supposed to receive once. Baptism and Confirmation are considered sacraments of initiation. Holy Orders and Matrimony are sacraments of commitment. The remaining three sacraments, Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation, and Anointing of the Sick are available for Catholics to receive more often.

While Holy Eucharist is considered a sacrament of initiation, after the special First Holy Communion Mass, the faithful are invited to receive Jesus in this sacrament daily. Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick, both sacraments of healing, are available as often as necessary.

Sacraments are outward signs of grace offered to those who want them. Sacramentals, tangible items used to administer the sacraments, help strengthen and encourage the faithful in the reception of these sacraments. The sacramental used to anoint the sick is holy oil that has been blessed by the bishop.

Anointing of the Sick used to be performed only when a person was gravely ill or in danger of dying. Today, many catholic churches offer regular healing Masses. Those wishing to receive healing spiritually, physically, emotionally, or mentally, are invited to attend these services. At the proper time, prior to Eucharist, the priest takes oil and administers the sacrament with a prayer. He dips his thumb in the oil and makes the sign of the cross on the forehead and palms of the hands, invoking a special prayer. Participants respond in turn by saying, "Amen."

The gifts received through anointing are: strength through the grace of the Holy Spirit, closer union with the suffering Christ, contribution to the holiness of the Church, and preparation for the journey into everlasting life.

Anointing of the Sick does not guarantee miracles of healing. What it does promise is sufficient grace to accept God's will more than our own. It also gives us the ability to persevere during trials if we don't receive the type of healing we desire. It is to be understood that while sufficient grace is given, it is up to each individual to accept this grace fully and completely.

Catholics understand that sacraments are to be received while in a state of grace. This means that we should be reconciled to God, the Church, and our community prior to participating in the sacraments. Through the sacrament of Reconciliation, we ask for forgiveness, recognizing our offenses, and cleansing our souls. It is easier to benefit from the gifts of God (in the sacraments) if we are not weighed down with the sins of the world.

Jesus taught us to have compassion for each other. He healed many people who had physical problems including the blind man, the paralytic, and the woman with a hemorrhage. He also healed those with spiritual ailments. "When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick," (Matthew 8: 16)

All of these people went on the share the story of God's compassion for them. The Catholic Church also has compassion for those who suffer. Only God can heal them, or offer them eternal life, at the given time. The church offers outward signs of God's love through Anointing of the Sick. It offers peace and healing in acceptance of the words of Christ.

Thank you for visiting, commenting on and sharing Christian Catholic today. I truly appreciate your support of my work here.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit:  The Last Sacraments, Henry Mosier (1841 - 1920), PD-US