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Anointing of the Sick

by Brant Pitre August 16, 2019 0 Comments



Is the Anointing of the Sick in the scripture? Now, Anointing of the Sick is not one of these sacraments that most people fight about, like, we might say, confession. Why would people be disposed to be contentious about confession? Well, because it’s rather embarrassing, right, to have to do this. So there’s less controversy about the Anointing of the Sick, but it’s actually more explicit in scripture. And it’s a real wonder to me that you don’t see more non-Catholic Christian denominations practicing this sacrament because it’s so explicitly taught in the Bible. Let’s see what it says here. In both the gospels and the other writings in the New Testament, we have clear references to this anointing. Look at this passage here from Mark 6:7 and 12-13. It says this:  

And he called to him the twelve…

Meaning the twelve apostles.

…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.

Right there in the Gospel of Mark. Isn’t this remarkable? Already in the New Testament itself, you see Jesus commissioning the Apostles to go out and not simply to preach the gospel, not simply to cast out demons, but to perform a ritual of anointing with oil. Now one of the things Catholics are often criticized for is all of our what? Rituals, right? “Where do you Catholics get all these rituals? Why do you have all these rituals? Isn’t Christianity not about a religion? Isn’t it just about faith? Why do you have to add all these rituals to the pure and unadulterated gospel? All you need to do is just believe in Jesus. That’s all the gospel is really about?  There’s no power in the oil; there is no power in the water; there is no power in the bread and the wine. All that, it’s just symbolism and ritualism at the worst, right?”

Many times, Catholics are accused of being work’s righteousness because we have all these rituals. But look, right here in the scripture, where do we Catholics get these rituals from? Not just from just the Apostles, from Jesus, from Christ himself. If rituals were bad, why did Jesus command the Apostles to anoint people with oil? Because he knew that we are fleshly people and we need visible signs of invisible realities. Sure, he can heal you simply by speaking the word. He doesn’t have to do it through a visible sign, we say that in the mass, right? “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you”, but only what? “Say the word and I shall be healed.” He created the whole universe. He doesn’t need visible signs, but we do, we do. He didn’t do it for his sake, he did it for us. And so the Anointing of the Sick is right there in the scriptures from Jesus himself. But look again in James 5, another passage, it says this — and this is a powerful one and it’s the same quote from the confession context that I just quoted about, it’s just right before it — it says this:

Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is any among you sick?

What are you supposed to do? What does the Bible say you’re supposed to do when someone’s sick?

Let him call for the elders…

In Greek, the presbyterous.

of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith…

Notice, who’s faith? The elders; their prayer will what?

…will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed…

You see the context here? It’s not just “confess your sins to everyone you meet.” “Hey, how’s it going? Guess what? I just committed adultery.” That’s not what he’s saying. Ok, don’t do that. Take it to the Sacrament of Confession. What he’s saying here is in that context of someone being sick, on the verge of death perhaps, call the elders, have them anoint them, have them pray over him, and not only will he be (perhaps, as we’ll see) healed, or what? His sins are forgiven. Now again, these are divine powers. These aren’t the kind of things men can do on their own. So where does the power come from? It comes from Christ. That’s what we mean by a sacrament. It’s a sacramental power, a supernatural power that flows out of the body of Christ through his priestly ministers and into us, to heal us, and sometimes to save us. Priests can bear witness to this. Sometimes the Anointing of the Sick — it doesn’t always do this and it does it whenever God decides — can actually bring about physical cures, physical healing. But the main thing, the most important thing, the real healing that Jesus came into the world to bring was spiritual healing. Remember that; it’s very important.

Why did Jesus come into the world? Why did Jesus heal all these people? It wasn’t just to show off his power. It wasn’t just to say, “Look at what I can do.” Every healing in Jesus’ public ministry was a visible sign of what he was going to do in the sacraments. Remember that, that’s important. All of his miracles in his public ministry were visible signs of what he would do in the sacraments. Think about the feeding of the five thousand. When Jesus took a little bread and he fed the multitudes, what’s that a sign of? The Eucharist. So the healing of the people was a visible sign of the Anointing of the Sick. And even Jesus himself sometimes used things, he (one time) spit in the mud and he made a little clay and he rubbed the man’s eyes with it, and the man who had no eyes suddenly had eyes, and so he could suddenly see. So Jesus always will use visible signs, often, I should say, would use visible signs to bring his supernatural power. And that’s what the sacraments do today. Thank God for that wonderful sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. It’s a powerful, powerful grace from God. 


Brant Pitre
Brant Pitre


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