“Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. Is anyone 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
Have you ever been seriously sick or injured? Many of us have. When we “count our blessings” we often include our good or improving health… and that’s a good practice, but we ought to avoid the trap of thinking that if we aren’t well we must not be blessed. In fact, the Lord offers a special sacramental blessing to us when we are very unwell – when we have a serious illness, injury or pending operation. Christ Himself suffered injury and death for our sake – He is with us in our infirmities.
Over the last couple of years I have anointed more people than in any other period in my priesthood. This Sacrament used to also be better known as extreme unction [from the 12th c.] due to its relegation to the moment of death. While this sacramental anointing is appropriate at the time of death, it is also properly celebrated at the beginning of serious illness or injury. A priest [or bishop] always confers this sacrament as it is also for the forgiveness of sins, which is reserved to priestly orders.
The greatest Sacrament at the time of death is actually the Eucharist itself, which we call viaticum [which means “with you on the way”] – this sacramental foretaste of the banquet in heaven prepares us for that final journey toward our heavenly homeland.
It has been edifying to have family members, nurses and chaplains reach out for friends and loved ones who are in need of these special sacraments. As members of the Body of Christ, we can all pray together for the suffering and find ways to stand with them in solidarity and vigil.
In the near future we will share a regular monthly time for those who need to receive the anointing of the sick. If you or a loved one is ever in urgent need of the anointing of the sick and/or viaticum please do not hesitate to call the parish office – if someone isn’t there to answer the call there will be direction to emergency message line.
Let us continue to pray for one another and especially for those who suffer and those who care for them.