Of the seven sacraments, I have received one more than your average 20-year-old Catholic. Sadly, I have forgotten about this odd one out until I read this blog post.
Anointing of the Sick is the name. Although the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states that there is “no need to wait until a person is at the point of death to receive the Sacrament“, I felt quite out of place at the front of the altar during a Friday Mass at my high school.
A religious sister who my family has been friends with for quite some time invited me to join her for this sacrament. She knew about my upcoming surgery that was only days apart from her own. I would never refuse her or any sacrament so I said yes.
But Anointing of the Sick is meant for older folks, right? The ones who have been battling a life-threatening illness and have been told that they will not see their next birthday? The ones who are in the midst of saying goodbye to their loved ones? The ones who wake up each morning, not knowing if it will be their last?
I didn’t fit any of these descriptions. I was definitely sick, my surgery was rather experimental and complications occurred with some lasting concerns but the procedure wasn’t too abnormal. I had the assurance that I would be put to sleep and wake up a few hours later with a future in store for me.
Looking back, I didn’t understand the amount of healing that I needed. I am so thankful for that opportunity to have received the transformative grace that Sarah talks about in her writing. Like me, she never expected to be anointed at such a young age but she needed it. She said, ” It was uncomfortable for me but sometimes in order to receive the grace of God we need to step out of comfort. That 20 seconds of courage changed everything”.
Jesus (let me remind you, He was PERFECT) even had to ask His Father for help. He knows exactly what it’s like to cry out in desperation. So if you think your imperfect self can make it alone, I only advise you to look to the One who couldn’t.
Our Lord is the ultimate physician. Yes, He may not stand in front of you in a white lab coat to tell you that you have bronchitis but our God heals. Far more than any definition of “healer” can ever put into words.
“Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”” – Mark 2:17. With faith, humility and courage, we are called to be sick in the presence of our Savior. Flu season or not, God seeks out our iniquities with the power to heal our entire being and nothing short of it.
As God provides this comfort continuously, we shouldn’t be ashamed to embrace it. All. the. time. We keep falling but notta worry in the world! He is the master picker-uper! Loonette and Molly on The Big Comfy Couch may have taught us that 10 seconds of tidying is sufficient. Nope, not our God. His healing is never restricted to a few seconds a day or any time for that matter.
Whether your flesh is failing you, your soul is wounded or your mind is plagued, we must step in front of that altar with our pride abandoned. Even when we don’t understand, even when we try to convince ourselves that we can hold it all together and even when others are telling you that your hurting is not “severe enough”.
This doesn’t mean that you need to call up your priest and schedule a time to receive Anointing of the Sick. However, if you want to, I would be the last person to hold you back! Sacraments are beeeautiful signs of Christ’s grace to the Church. But the Holy Spirit is always at work and pouring gifts into our lives, whether it is formalized or not.
To be sick and anointed is vulnerably freeing. Don’t take this tender healing away from yourself and more importantly, don’t allow yourself to take it away from Him.