Sacramentum Caritatis 22: Eucharist and Anointing

A few words on The Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick 

22. Jesus did not only send his disciples forth to heal the sick (cf. Matthew 10:8; Luke 9:2, 10:9); he also instituted a specific sacrament for them: the Anointing of the Sick. (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1499-1532)

Some reformers looked at the New Testament and fussed that Jesus didn’t explicitly institute in the written record. But we do know that the Lord focused much of his public ministry on healing. That should be enough of a connection for the modern Christian.

The Letter of James attests to the presence of this sacramental sign in the early Christian community (cf. 5:14-16). If the Eucharist shows how Christ’s sufferings and death have been transformed into love, the Anointing of the Sick, for its part, unites the sick with Christ’s self-offering for the salvation of all, so that they too, within the mystery of the communion of saints, can participate in the redemption of the world.

This is one of the more useful reflections in this document. The sick are not passive recipients of charity. They have a role in the saving mission of God. What might that mean for the individual believer? This is not an area well-studied in theology. It’s a matter of discernment, even if it is a quiet witness to the Gospel: praying for others and developing the charism of intercessory prayer.

A word on end-of-life:

The relationship between these two sacraments becomes clear in situations of serious illness: “In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1524) On their journey to the Father, communion in the Body and Blood of Christ appears as the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection: “Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:54). Since viaticum gives the sick a glimpse of the fullness of the Paschal Mystery, its administration should be readily provided for. (Cf. Propositio 44)

And a reminder that the care of the sick is a calling of the baptized. Not the clergy alone:

Attentive pastoral care shown to those who are ill brings great spiritual benefit to the entire community, since whatever we do to one of the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to Jesus himself (cf. Matthew 25:40).

This document is copyright © 2007 Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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