James 5.13-20; Psalm 140; Mark 10.13-16
The sacrament of Anointing (or Holy Unction) plays perhaps too small a part in our Christian lives. Many of us think of it primarily in terms of the ‘last rites’ bestowed upon the dying. The Catechism brackets together the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick as the Church’s two Sacraments of Healing. That may give us a clue to the role of Holy Anointing in Christian life.
The Anointing of the Sick explicitly unites Christian people to the Passion and death of Christ. We glimpse our own mortality when we suffer ill health, and the sacrament reminds us that Death, ‘the way that Christ himself hath trod’, is not to be feared. When we receive this Sacrament we are consecrated to bear fruit by configuration to the Saviour’s redemptive Passion. Suffering and illness offer us opportunities to participate in the saving work of Jesus.