The Mystery of Holy Anointing
Is there anyone sick among you? He should ask for the priests of the church. They in turn are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Name of the Lord This prayer, uttered in faith, will reclaim the one who is ill and the Lord will restore him to health James 5: 14, 15.
Sickness is a word description not only for one who is under some bodily indisposition as we see from God's revelation to us in David's encounter with an Egyptian slave abandoned by his master because in his illness he became a burden. "My master abandoned me because I fell sick three days ago" 1 Samuel 30: 13 as we are also directed to the sickness of the centurion's servant who after petitioning Christ for his restoration, "...returned to the house, they found the servant in perfect health" Luke 7: 10.
The same word is also taken as sensible of the burden of sin, by those who earnestly desire to be delivered by the grace of Christ the Great Physician. "People who are in good health do not need a physician; sick people do" Matthew 7: 12. In the Song of Songs, we also read, "Strengthen me with raisin cakes, refresh me with apples, for I am love sick" Song of Songs 2: 4, 5. In other words we are counseled by the Revelation of God to us, "You who are communicants of the Church, whether priests or just ordinary members, afford me what help you can; for the supporting, strengthening and comforting of my soul, by applying the promises of the gospel richness and such other means as may be conducive to relief of the burdens faced in life. Often the soul languishes in confusion and without stability for want of the full enjoyment and sense of Christ's love which every baptized soul desires.
We are aware sickness was not introduced into the life of man by God. It was man's cooperation and actual choosing to pursue the devil's wish in sin. We read thereafter that sin and illness is always expected as a result of departure from the grace of God and refusal to submit to the will of the Creator. The instrumental cause is always satan who sometimes is permitted by God to inflict disease upon persons as he did on in the Book of Job. There have been times when sickness was a punishment for abject sin. "Now the Lord dealt severely with the people of Ashdod who had in their possession the Ark of the Covenant. He ravaged and afflicted the inhabitants of the city and its vicinity with hemorrhoids..." 1 Samuel 5: 6
The glory of God has also been manifested and made known through the plague of sickness. When our Lord was questioned about the man born blind, "Rabbi, was it his sin or that of his parents that caused him to be born blind?" our Lord was bound to correct their ill-founded but popular insight, "Neither ... it was not sin, either of this man or of his parents. Rather, it was that the glory of God be made known in him" John 9: 2, 3. And then again, with the submission in sickness to death by Lazarus, our Lord teaches us, "This sickness is not to end in death; rather it is for God's glory, that through it the Son of God may be glorified" John 11: 4. Thus illness and lack of good health may be an opportunity for us to allow God to be glorified if we match up his healing grace with our faith response. If we genuinely believe He can, then He always does!
Thus we then see that even evil can be changed into good for man's benefit. "We know God makes all things work together for the good of those who have been called according to his decree" Romans 8: 28. The Great Physician in his day healed the sick as He continues to do the same in the life of his Body, our blessed Church. We see the Church is concerned with the whole man in all aspects of life and in all its dimensions. It is concerned with the healthy and the ill and it has a work to perform for all. The work of Christ is not only simply physical restoration because it also deals with spiritual renewal. Jesus is concerned just as much with the sick of soul as those with paralysis of the sick body.
The apostles performed Christ's ministry of healing. St. Mark tells us they went out, "two by two, giving them authority over unclean spirits ... anointed the sick with oil and worked many cures" Mark 6: 7, 13. There is nothing magical or miraculous in this Mystery. Since it is true as God's revelation to us attests that "...in him we live and move and have our being," Acts of the Apostles 17: 28, then is it any wonder we are moved to turn to Christ in time of illness? In the event of illness, the believer desires the healing grace of this sacramental Mystery. The second century Father of the Church, St. Theophilus, speaks of the restoration of the Christian from sickness as a kind of "resurrection" wrought through the mercy and healing of God.
Is there any sick among us? Let us call the priest of the Church! Amen.