“Is any among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. Is any among you sick? 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 5:13-15
Through the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, Christ strengthens those who are afflicted by illness, whether in body, soul or spirit. Jesus showed great concern for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the sick and commanded his followers to do the same. God did not promise that we would be cured of our illnesses, but God always provides healing and forgiveness of sins.
Our mission as the Church is to do what Jesus did. And on nearly every page of the Gospels we read of Jesus' concern for the sick. Healing was essential to the mission of the disciples: "He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two.... They anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them" (see Mark 6:7-13). After Jesus ascended into heaven, the Church continued to be a sacrament of healing. The Sacrament of Anointing does not remove the mystery of human suffering. Yet its celebration gives us a window into the mystery of a loving God. The celebration of this sacrament also provides an opportunity for the deepening of the faith of the community through the faith witnessed.
Symbols of this sacrament include the laying on of hands, and the anointing with oil on the forehead and the palms of both hands. The laying on of hands symbolizes the Spirit of God being called down – the very presence of the Lord putting his hands on our head. The oil is a sign that God ‘has put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts. Through the anointing we are strengthened for what lies ahead.
In this sacrament, we acknowledge the love of God and the dignity of God’s people, a dignity that is not diminished by illness, or even death.