Pope Francis called on the faithful today to refrain from considering calling a priest for the Anointing of the Sick as a bad omen, and rather to see it as a moment to receive the strength of Christ. The Holy Father said this as he continued his catechetical series on the Sacraments during his Wednesday General Audience.
The Anointing of the Sick, he said, “enables us to touch with our hand God’s compassion for man” and helps to “widen our look on the experience of sickness and suffering, in the horizon of God’s mercy.”
The Pope began explaining the Sacrament by drawing a comparison with the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of St. Luke. Jesus’ parable recalls the Samaritan taking care of a suffering man by pouring oil and wine on his wounds and later entrusting him to an innkeeper.
“Oil makes us think of that which is blessed every year by the Bishop in the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday, precisely in view of the Anointing of the Sick. The wine, instead, is the sign of the love and grace of Christ that gushes forth from the gift of his life for us and is expressed in all its richness in the sacramental life of the Church,” the Pope said.
“Finally, the suffering person is entrusted to an innkeeper, so that he can continue to take care of him, regardless of expense. Now, who is this innkeeper? It is the Church, the Christian community; it is we to whom every day the Lord Jesus entrusts those who are afflicted, in body and spirit, so that we continue to pour on them, without measure, all his mercy and salvation.”
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, he continued, was already practiced by the Apostles, who took up Christ’s “predilection for the sick and the suffering.” While it brings a special grace, the Holy Father warned the faithful of not falling into an “obsessive search” for a miracle or healing.
The Pope also addressed fears that one might have of calling a priest in a time of sickness. “There is a bit this idea that after the priest, comes the funeral home,” he said. “And this isn’t true.”
“The priest comes to help the sick or the elderly; for this it is so important the visit of the priests to the sick.You need to call the priest and say: ‘Come, give the anointing, bless him.’ It is Jesus Himself who comes to relieve the sick, to give them strength, to give them hope, to help, even to forgive them their sins. And this is beautiful!”
Encouraging the faithful to not look at it as a taboo, the 77-year-old Pontiff said that the Anointing of the Sick is a beautiful sacrament that assures us that we are not alone in moments of pain and sickness. The comfort that accompanies the sacraments is the presence of Christ Himself. Jesus, he said, “takes us by the hand, He caresses us as he did with the sick and reminds us that now we belong to him and that nothing – not even evil or death – can separate us from Him.”
Concluding his catechesis, Pope Francis called on the faithful to have the habit of calling a priest for those who are gravely ill and the elderly. In doing so, the priest may give “this comfort, this strength of Jesus to go forward.” (J.A.E.)
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