Sacraments of Healing: Reconciliation and Anointing
The theme , Sacraments of Healing”, is timely. First, all of us experience the need for healing. Each is subject to sin, suffering, disease and death. George Bernard Shaw with a sparkling quotable quote wished to have inscribed on his tombstone, “I knew if I stayed around long enough, something like this would happen”. Even after Baptism, Christians still carry this new life “in earthen vessels”. The second reason is that the practice of both sacraments has entered into crisis. Thirdly, these sacraments offer a response to the two fundamental questions raised by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2005 Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est (DCE), “What does this path of ascent and purification [of eros] entail? How might love be experienced so that it can fully realize its human and divine dimensions?”. Fourthly, just as there is a unity among the Sacraments of Christian Initiation, Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, “so too it can be said that Penance, the Anointing of the Sick and the Eucharist as Viaticum, constitute at the end of Christian life ‘the Sacraments that prepare for our heavenly homeland’ or the sacraments that complete the earthly pilgrimage”.
It must be kept in mind throughout that we are saved by faith and the sacraments of faith.
Anointing of the Sick
In the Church's Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, through the ministry of the priest, it is Jesus who touches the sick to heal them from sin – and sometimes even from physical ailment. His cures were signs of the arrival of the Kingdom of God. The core message of his healing tells us of his plan to conquer sin and death by his dying and rising.
The Rite of Anointing tells us there is no need to wait until a person is at the point of death to receive the Sacrament. A careful judgment about the serious nature of the illness is sufficient.
When the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is given, the hoped-for effect is that, if it be God's will, the person be physically healed of illness. But even if there is no physical healing, the primary effect of the Sacrament is a spiritual healing by which the sick person receives the Holy Spirit's gift of peace and courage to deal with the difficulties that accompany serious illness or the frailty of old age.