Jesus Institutes the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick In this Sunday‟s Gospel we read how Jesus Christ shares with us his healing power through the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and Dying. Throughout my priestly ministry I have seen many people receive this sacrament on their death bed, and yet they are revived to pray, praise and worship God for many weeks, months, even years. You might remember Peg Edel, who had me thank those who prayed for her. I had anointed her many times throughout my first two years serving here and she recovered each time. When she contracted Covid-19, I thought maybe the Lord would take her home since she had so many underlying health issues. I was not able to anoint her and so another priest from Rochester anointed her and she revived once again. She did not fully recover, however, and the Good Lord thought it best to call her home to him April of this year. I am confident that the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and Dying gave her the time she needed to make everything right with God. Pope Paul VI wrote about the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. He refers to the Gospel of Mark chapter 6 which talks about Jesus‟ mission given to the Twelve. “He said to them… „Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.‟ So they went off and preached repentance. They…anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (Mk. 6:6b-13) Jesus‟ ministry continues today because his words have a lasting power which the Church receives and embodies in faith. In the early Church, about 30 years after Jesus was crucified, St. James wrote: “Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the priests of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:13-16)
The General Introduction of the ritual actions and prayers of this sacrament sheds light upon this divine gift. “In the anointing of the sick, which includes the prayer of faith, faith itself is manifested. Above all this faith must be made actual both in the minister of the sacrament and, even more importantly, in the recipient. The sick person will be saved by personal faith and the faith of the Church, which looks back to the death and resurrection of Christ, the source of the sacrament‟s power and looks ahead to the future kingdom that is pledged in the sacraments.”(Par. 7) “…Great care and concern should be taken to see that those of the faithful whose health is seriously impaired by sickness or old age receive this sacrament…. A sick person may be anointed before surgery whenever a serious illness is the reason for the surgery.” (Par. 10) “Elderly people may be anointed if they have become notably weakened even though no serious illness is present.” (Par. 11) “Sick children are to be anointed if they have sufficient use of reason to be strengthened by this sacrament. In a case of doubt… the sacrament is to be conferred.” (Par. 12) “When a priest has been called to attend those who are already dead, he should not administer the sacrament of anointing. Instead, he should pray for them… But if the priest is doubtful…he should confer the sacrament, using the rite given in No. 269. The anointing of the sick is not to be conferred on anyone who remains obdurately in open serious sin.” (Par. 15)
We are blessed with many opportunities for confession, but we also wish to remind families that the Sacraments of Confession and Anointing can be requested for the elderly, and anyone going in for major surgery in light of the aforementioned conditions, especially the elderly who “have become notably weakened even though no serious illness is present.” I myself made sure to go to confession by arranging an appointment with a priest before going in for serious surgery, twice in my life, when I was given general anesthesia.
Peace, Fr. Thomas McCabe