Fr. Mark's
         Corner
THE ANOINTING OF THE SICK

Next Sunday, October 14/15, our parish will celebrate the Anointing of the
Sick within Mass.  Through this sacrament we continue to experience the
risen Christ.  The celebration of the Anointing of the Sick will remind us
that while Christ has ascended on high, he remains present and active in
our lives.

The Anointing of the Sick has its roots in the ministry of Jesus.  In the
Gospels Jesus is constantly portrayed as one who reached out to those in
need of healing.  Jesus offered spiritual, physical and emotional healing
during his ministry.  Not only did Jesus heal but also he empowered his
disciples to heal through the laying on of hands and through anointing with
oil (Mark 6:13).

In the Christian communities of the first century, both the clergy and laity
anointed the sick.  Toward the end of the first century the priest was given
a special role in the anointing of the sick.  This role of the priest is
reflected in the epistle of James, “Is any sick among you?  He should
summon the presbyters 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 (James 5:14-15).”

Until the 12th century the sacrament of Anointing was understood as a
sacrament of healing, forgiveness and salvation.  In that century the
sacrament began to be seen as a sacrament of the dying and thus its
name was changed to Extreme Unction.  The Council of Nicea (325 AD)
had already stated that the sacrament of the dying was Viaticum (in Latin,
“for the way”).  Viaticum is Holy Communion, which is food for the journey
to eternal life. Anointing of the Sick continued to be understood as a
sacrament for the dying until the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s.

This new theological view was put forward in article 73 of the Constitution
on the Liturgy, which states, “Extreme Unction which may more fittingly be
called ‘Anointing of the Sick,’ is not a sacrament for those only who are at
the point of death.”   The Rites of Anointing and Viaticum state that
anyone who is seriously ill is eligible for the Anointing of the Sick.  More
specifically the sacrament is offered to those preparing for surgery, the
elderly, and sick children as long as they “have sufficient us of reason to
be strengthened by the sacrament.”

The purpose of the sacrament is to bring spiritual strength to those who
are physically ill, not only by reminding them that they are loved and
forgiven by God but also by reassuring them of God’s concern for their
physical well-being.  This is a sacrament that calls for faith, which can find
meaning in suffering and hope even in death.  It is a sacrament that calls
for a response, and so it can be a means of personal growth.  In the
sacrament the one anointed experiences the healing that is most beneficial
for their salvation.  When received in faith this always means spiritual and
emotional healing.  One who is anointed may also receive physical
healing.  

The Anointing of the Sick provides the grace of the Holy Spirit to those
who are sick: by this grace the whole person is helped and saved,
sustained by trust in God and strengthened against temptation and
against anxiety over death.  I invite all of those who are dealing with
serious illness to be anointed next weekend.