Hoping to be healed
Throughout his ministry on earth Jesus reached out to the sick and suffering. He showed compassion for those who suffered in both physical and spiritual ways, and he was concerned for the wellbeing of all people. He visited and healed the sick and many people came in search of him, hoping for comfort, hoping to be healed.
He healed them in many different ways. Sometimes in very quiet, private intimate circumstances and at other times from a distance, without even seeing the person concerned. He healed them by touching them or sometimes with a simple word. From reading the Bible we can find countless incidents of Jesus’ love of the sick and how they were transformed by him.
This ministry was continued by his apostles and has been handed to the church. The Sacrament of the Sick is the ministry of Christ through his church, reaching out with love in every age and in every generation, showing compassion and love, standing alongside us and providing his healing and consoling touch.
‘Is there anyone sick among you? Let him send for the presbyters and let them pray over him, anointing him in the name of the Lord.’James 5:14-15
The Sacrament of the Sick
The Prayer of Faith
In the letter of St James, we read: ‘If anyone among you is sick, call for the elders, and let them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick person.’ (James 5:14-15)
We gather in faith and in prayer, commending the sick to God, surrounding them with hope and confidence in the saving love of God in Christ.
Laying on of Hands
The gospels contain a number of instances when Jesus healed people by laying hands on them or even simply by touching people or being touched by him.
‘They brought the sick with various diseases to him,’ we read in the gospel according to Luke, ‘and he laid hands on every one of them and healed them.’
Today, through the Laying on of Hands we feel the touch of Christ, the Healer. The Laying on of Hands is also a physical gesture that the person is the subject of the prayers of the people, as well as being a sign of blessing.
It is also an invocation—a calling for the Holy Spirit to come upon the sick person: to comfort and strengthen, console and heal.
When we receive anointing on the forehead and palms (and, if appropriate, the affected part of the body) we receive a sign of healing, strengthening and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Today, many people are searching for healing and wholeness in all kinds of ‘alternative’ ways. When we celebrate the sacraments of the church, we receive the healing touch of the Lord, who alone brings peace and the promise of his Spirit.
‘Through this holy anointing,’ he says, ‘may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.’ He then continues, ‘May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.’
Who is it for?
Some people think that to receive in the Sacrament of the Sick they have to be close to death.
Anyone, in fact, can request the Laying on of Hands and Anointing with Holy Oil. People are anointed in sickness, before an operation, at a time of crisis, when they are anxious, the list goes on!
It is celebrated in church, at home, in a hospital ward, indoors, outdoors: in fact, anywhere where Christ’s healing presence is sought, where the strengthening power of the Holy Spirit is desired.
At St Mary’s Church, the Sacrament of the Sick is celebrated regularly once a month, usually on the first Monday of each month during the 6.00 pm Mass, as well as on other occasions, and for individuals by request.
The prayer for healing is many and varied: as varied as the needs of each sick person—and the healing received is as varied, too.
For some, the healing presence of Jesus will bring strength and faith, it will help them to fight against the debilitating effects of their illness.
There is always the prayer, too, for a full healing from the illness itself, for a full recovery, always and everywhere giving thanks to God for raising us up and giving us a glimpse of the love that he lavishes upon us.