On the Anointing of the Sick

Friends in Christ, we see in the gospel today that Jesus is training his first priests; he sends the apostles out to anoint the sick with oil. Later, in the Epistle of St. James, it says ‘if anyone is sick, call for the priests to anoint the person with oil.’ Here is the sacrament we call the anointing of the sick.
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What is the purpose of anointing of the sick? Many people have the mistaken opinion that the anointing is to cure the person of sickness. This sometimes does happen, but the sacrament is for a far more important thing than physical healing. Presuming the person is receptive, supernatural grace is imparted to the soul for the purpose of helping them to carry their suffering – to help them be like Christ. While I HAVE seen some amazing bodily healings, the most important is spiritual healing.
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People can become discouraged in their suffering; they can’t see the point of their pain, and they are perhaps bitter. Then comes the anointing of the sick. Many times, one will see either immediately or over the next days a different attitude. The person comes to realize that they are carrying a cross, like Jesus, or the martyrs. Sometimes, for the first time in their life, they realize they can offer their body and pain and discomfort for the salvation of their family and the world.
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The power of anointing of the sick often changes despair into hope. It’s a supernatural change in the soul. Sometimes a person’s most difficult time in old age can be, in God’s eyes, their finest hours; a new time of courage and hope. One man said that he kind of felt guilty that he only sought pleasure in life, but now that he has some pain and trouble, he finally has something he can really offer to God.
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If anointing of the sick is given near death, it drives away the fear of death and brings a peaceful acceptance of the will of God, of His plan. The heart can suddenly feel a joy in thinking of heaven. Healings of the body can happen only if this is better for the soul. But for many people, they are holier when they are sick – for some, it’s the first time in decades that they are no longer plagued with impure thoughts. So healing of the body could be undesirable in regard to their salvation.
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Finally, at the approach of death, anointing of the sick purifies the last traces of sin, and even forgiven sins if the person was not able to confess. So if a person is quite sick or frail, the priest should be called so they can be anointed, and we should avail of ourselves of this sacrament in any serious illness.
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If a person is dying, absolutely call the priest to hear their confession, anoint, and give the apostolic blessing, preferably before they lose consciousness.
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Ideally the last sacrament is the reception of Holy Communion, for the journey to the new world, but often this is not possible due to the illness.
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We also must beware of some protestants who are trying to imitate the Catholic Church, who come around in hospitals and so-call “anoint” people; this is not a sacrament. Instead, call a priest.
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Jesus gave the sacraments to us for a reason: so let’s make use of them.

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