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Anointing of the sick

08 Mar 2015, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sacraments

My doorbell once rang, and it was a sick call; a sick parishioner in the hospital needed the attention of a Priest. I was there without wasting time to pray and anoint the sick person, but the expression on the face of the sick man’s wife showed she was not too comfortable with the idea of the anointing.anointing of the sick She was uncomfortable, not because she doesn’t believe in this sacrament but because she thought it marks the end of one’s life on earth. I could imagine what was going on in her mind; she felt her husband was going to die as soon as I anoint him. Her feelings were not strange to me because so many Catholics and other Christians see the anointing as the last sacrament, a sacrament for the dying, hence the name extreme unction. But that is not true, “the Anointing of the Sick is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as any one of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived.” CCC 1514. The danger of death here does not mean only when the sickness becomes very serious; any form of sickness puts one in danger of death. However, the sacrament must not be abused by administering it in any little pain.

The Anointing of the sick is a healing sacrament even though it is equally offered or administered to the dying. When the Priest administers this sacrament, he does that in the name of the Church through Jesus Christ the Lord. The whole Church prays for the sick person, for we are one body. When a part of the body is sick, the whole body is sick. It is the Church’s responsibility to pray for the sick and heal the sick through the sacrament of penance and anointing. “By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests, the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and 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.” CCC 1499. Isaiah foretold how he would bear our grief before his passion and death, carry our sorrows and heal us by His stripes (Isaiah 53:4). He says I am the Lord your healer (Ex.15:26).

Jesus did not only come to heal our bodies but to heal our Souls as well,my healer to forgive sins and save us for eternal life. That is why the sacrament of the anointing of the sick is closely related to the sacrament of penance or reconciliation. Jesus said to the paralytic, “my Son, your sins are forgiven you…take up your pallet and go home” (Mk. 2:5 and 11). Jesus healed the Soul and the body, and the bible says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8), which means that he is still healing.

Jesus is anointed to heal (Lk. 4:18). The Anointing of the sick and, in fact, the sacraments in the Church are channels of healing in Jesus Christ. “Since the sacraments are particularly chosen channels of God’s saving power, it is little wonder that they are channels of healing, which is Christ’s power to save applied to every area of human life. Three Sacraments, Anointing of the Sick, Penance, and the Eucharist, are specifically directed toward healing, while a fourth, Holy Order, empowers the Priests to heal the sick. Besides, I have seen healing connected with Baptism and with a prayer for the renewal of marriage. So I have seen healing in its connection with six of the sacrament; nor would I be surprised if healing, at least in its broader aspect of healing the whole man, were connected with confirmation.”

“The anointing of the sick is a liturgical and communal celebration,” with a validly ordained Priest as the minister; a deacon can also administer this sacrament. This is not to stop the lay faithful from praying for the sick, but if it has to do with the liturgical celebration, an ordained Priest is required. St. James says, “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” James 5:14-15.

The idea of the last sacrament is not completely removed; the Church teaches that “in addition to the anointing of the sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum. Communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of “passing over” to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: He who eats my body and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him at the last day.” CCC 1524. So fear not, anointing of the sick is a prayer of healing.

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