Does the Bible say anything about the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick?
Yes it does. The most explicit reference comes from the Letter of St. James:
“Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” (Jas 5:14-15)
There is also the work of the apostles, when Jesus sent them out “two by two”:
“And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. … So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.” (Mk 6:7, 12-13)
In both cases, the apostles and elders of the Church heal by anointing the sick with oil, which is what takes place in our sacrament. Paul healed a man of fever and dysentery by laying his hands on the sick man (cf. Acts 28:8), which is an important part of the sacrament as well. The fact is, “many signs and wonders were done among the people by the hands of the apostles” (Acts 5:12), and one of these was the power to heal the sick (cf. Acts 5:15-16; 8:7; 19:11-12).
Note however that the benefit is not always physical. Since God does not always desire that we be cured of our infirmities, He also gave the apostles the power to strengthen the sick spiritually. So, we often see that, along with their many physical healings was also the casting out of demons (cf. Mk 6:13; Acts 5:16; 8:7) and the forgiveness of sins (Jas 5:14-15). Similarly, in the sacrament, the sick person may not be physically healed by the action of the priest, but he is always given the grace to persevere with courage, to unite his pain with that of our crucified Lord, and to resist the devil, who tempts us in our deepest suffering to renounce our faith in God.
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is an amazing gift to anyone, young or old, who begins to be in danger of death.
Peace of Christ to you,
WIMM Board Member
Director of Religious Education, Blessed Mother Catholic Church
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