Many of us who were brought up in the old Catechism know that one of the seven sacraments used to be called Extreme Unction. Extreme means last, Unction means the act of anointing. The anointing of the sick used to be called the last anointing.
Why was it called the last anointing? You may say that the rite is some kind of “despedida”, some kind of send-off, for someone who is leaving. The reason why the anointing of the sick is called the last anointing is because it is the last sacrament that includes anointing. The other sacraments that have anointing are Baptism, Confirmation, and Ordination.
Unfortunately, when people hear of a last anointing, they start to think of the last days, of death. That is why the term Extreme Unction has been changed to “anointing of the sick.” It is still called anointing, not because it is a farewell to a sick person, but because it is the last of the four sacraments that involves an anointing with oil.
The first reading, the epistle of St. James, contains the scriptural basis for the anointing of the sick.
Why does the Lord anoint us with oil? It is because we are God’s children.
All of us were children once upon a time. When we get hurt, our mothers will attend to us, perhaps put band-aids on our wounds If we cannot breathe at night, our mothers would rub Vick’s vapor rub and caress us. These are expressions of a mother’s concern, a mother’s love in response to a child’s plea to be loved by his mother.
When the Church anoints us with oil this is an expression of concern similar to that which a mother gives her child. It is like band-aid or Vicks vapor rub that tells us not to be afraid, that assures us we will get well soon. think that it is the last sacrament.
Unfortunately, not all of us are ready for anointing because we think that it is the last sacrament.
I was anointed twice not because I was at the point of death but because my confessor told me that he should anoint me because I would get discouraged because of my sickness. There is nothing wrong, there is nothing fatal about anointing people because they are sick.
Today we will pray for our sick brothers and sisters and we will also pray for ourselves. We are afraid to die and that is why we are afraid of things that pertain to death. Anointing of the sick does not pertain to death. Anointing of the sick pertains to life – life that the Lord wants to give us.
When our turn comes to get sick, let us not forget those who are also sick. Let us offer our sacrifices for them. When our turn comes to get sick, let us continue to trust in the Lord. As a child runs to his mother when he is sick, let us also run to the Church when we are sick and ask the Lord for our band-aid, for our Vick’s vapor rub, for a tap on the shoulder, for our anointing.
THE LAST ANOINTING
Only Jesus, Always Jesus