Fr. JOHN REDFORD
A step-by-step beginners’ guide to the Catholic faith
HEALING THE SICK
In the life which we live on earth, sickness is one of the unfortunate things we fear most. It can take us away from our loved ones, and turn us from being active and responsible people into being totally dependent on someone else, almost like being an infant again.
In the Old Testament, sickness is treated as a great problem. In the story of Job, a good man suffers misfortune, crying out more than once, ‘Why was I born at all, if my life is only like a prison?’ But in the books written by the prophets, there is expressed the firm hope that one day God will save the sick, and the blind will see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk.
When Jesus came, he did so many miracles of healing that even those who did not accept him as a Messiah said, ‘When the Messiah comes, will he do more miracles than this man has done?’ We find that Jesus responded to human needs, and his pity healed the blind man who cried out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me’.
However, it is obvious that not all the people in Palestine at the time of Jesus was on earth were cured of their sickness. Some did not have faith, and so a cure was not possible; and some were not around when Jesus was passing by. And even those who were lucky enough to be cured by him would still eventually have to submit to the final sickness, death.
Therefore, the most important sickness of all was cured by our Lord when he rose from the dead, what St Paul called the ‘last enemy’ of the human race. We as Christians know that death is only the gateway to a new life, in which we will know and love God and each other completely.
After Pentecost, the apostles and other Christians did as many remarkable things as Jesus himself had done while on earth, healing men and women from serious sickness such as paralysis, and from all kinds of sickness. And since then, there have always been in the history of the Christian Church, miracles of healing, often associated with prayers of saints like Bernadette of Lourdes, or with special manifestations of God’s power as in the charismatic renewal movement.
In connection with the healing of the sick, the Church has a special sacrament whereby a person who is seriously ill is anointed with holy oil. This is a sign to the sick person that Christ is present as the divine Healer, and the whole Church prays with faith as the Letter of St James says, that he or she will recover to full health and strength.
However, just as in our Lord’s day, not everyone who is anointed with the Sacrament of the Sick will necessarily recover; since all of us must die sometime. In some cases, it is God’s will to allow even a long illness, as a way in which we can learn to love and to offer up our sufferings to God in prayers for others. ‘For’, as St Paul says, ‘it is when I am weak that I am strong’.
Prayer of Thanksgiving at the Sacrament of the Sick: Lord God, with faith in you, our brothers and sisters will be anointed with this holy oil. Ease their sufferings and strengthen them in their weakness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Finally, a short prayer for the sick person:
Our Lady, help of the sick, pray for him (or her).