Saturday, March 26, 2005

Signs and Wonders: The Holy Sacraments in the Life of One Unholy Christian Man (VII)

Anointing of the Sick:

1499 "By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ."

In all honesty, this sacrament doesn’t “do” as much for me as the others. Even so, I know by faith this Sacrament is just as much gift as the others. My psychological dullness aside, what I do appreciate about it is how it, like the other Sacraments, continues the work of Christ in our age. It is crucial for the Church to walk as Jesus walked. Therefore, any church that avoids or, worse, flatly denies the reality of Christ’s healing ministry today, already shows itself out of step with him. Jesus came to give sight to the blind and life to the dying. Anointing is the ongoing sign of Christ’s mission for wholeness. Even when it appears not to have worked – in the case of a death, or a worsened condition, etc. – we can trust in the oil of anointing to be a covenant reminder, a sort of oily stain of grace, waiting to be redeemed on the final Day. The oil of Anointing is the grease of grace.

Another thing I like about Anointing is how it shows God’s concern for the whole spectrum of human life. God restores and nourishes us from birth (with Baptism), to maturity (with Confirmation, Eucharist, Confession, Orders and Matrimony), all the way to sickness and death (with Anointing). At every point along the way, God has given us the means of grace to meet our needs. Recalling the fundamentally nuptial nature of Christianity, I see the Sacraments, and Anointing in particular, as God’s way of sticking to his marriage vows. In wealth and in poverty. In sickness and in health. In life and in death. Every drop of consecrated oil is a burst of God’s marital grace breaking through. Every drop is the voice of God whispering “I do”, without a second thought, to his Bride’s often beleaguered heart.

Having said all these nice things, I confess again most of it is head-faith, and the sacrament of Anointing has not yet satisfactorily clutched my heart.

No comments: