As a part of our regular practice here in the parish, we celebrate the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick on the first Wednesday of the month following our morning liturgy. Our numbers are usually a bit more on those days (yesterday being one of them). But we also have the joy of celebrating a Communal Anointing of the Sick during the month of October, and this year it was on the afternoon of Sunday, October 25th. There were at least one hundred people present who came in their need and pain, their illness and aging weakness, to be embraced by a loving God and affirmed in their faith. It is for me one of the most special times of the year, and this year was no exception.
This need for healing, this desire for strength and restoration, is deeply felt among us. We struggle. We question God. We desire health and freedom. And we trust the words of the Lord that tell us that if we ask, we will receive. So, following the instruction of the Apostle James, we come to the elders of the church and we pray over the sick brought before us, we lay our hands in blessing and anoint them with holy oil, the Oil of the Sick, and trust that in the name of Jesus they will be set free of their sins, strengthened, and restored to health. Usually crutches are not thrown down, or the blind see, or the dead brought to life as we celebrate this sacrament ... but all are loved, the weak are strengthen by the embrace of Christ and his church, those losing hope are shown a way in which the suffering Lord sustains them, and God's healing is present in our midst. The older that I get and the more physically challenged that I become, the more that this great Sacrament of Healing and of Love becomes precious to my life. And to celebrate this Sacrament for God's People is an added blessing that I cherish.
The other thing that we do here at the parish on that day is to invite our "senior members" to a catered buffet dinner in appreciation of their faith and example, their dedicated service and generosity over the years. Those attending this year expressed their delight at the dinner and their gratitude for our gratitude. A good time was had by all. It is a small way of saying thanks.