The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is a wonderful moment of love, care, concern and trust in the healing power of God in our lives. It is also probably one of the most misunderstood sacraments. On Monday, for example, I was called to anoint the mother of one of our parishioners who was dying in a local care facility. When I got there, he mentioned that another priest had visited Mom and gave her the Sacrament of the Sick, but would I give her last rites. After explaining that it is the same Sacrament, we prayed together before I left. [By the way, she did die yesterday. Her name is Anna, please say a prayer for the repose of her soul, and for her family.]
We at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parish celebrate the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick in a larger communal service each Fall. We also celebrate the Sacrament following the morning Mass on the first Wednesday of each month (this morning). As I anointed those who came forward, the ill, the aged, those in need of the Lord's strength, I noticed how many looked and acted healthier than me. That brought to mind an experience that I heard of during one of the Church's special Jubilee Years. One of our previous bishops was making the rounds of the deaneries celebrating this Sacrament. Following one such time of prayer, he questioned the pastor as to why one woman, who obviously looked healthy, came forward for anointing. He was upset that she abused the Sacrament. Then the pastor proceeded to inform him that this particular woman was in remission in a terrible struggle with cancer, and he saw a good external moment of her continuing struggle. She did not look "worthy", but indeed she was! You can't always judge a book by its cover.
To those who received the Sacrament here at SEAS this morning, you are always welcome to the loving embrace and the healing power of God, whether you look worthy or not ... and you are in my prayers.