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Bible 1 Yr – Day 119 – The Anointing of the Sick

Today we read James chapter 5, which contains two blockbuster theological revelations.
First, the anointing of the sick:

14 Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Read carefully what this says … if someone is sick then call for the elders of the Church, the Greek word is Presbyter which is the root of the word Priest. They will pray over them and anoint the sick person w/ oil. And this prayer WILL SAVE the sick man and if he has committed sins HE WILL BE forgiven.

Think about that, this means that someone who is sick, possibly w/ fever, delirious, near death and possibly even unable to speak will be saved by this sacrament. The verse doesn’t say anything about the sick person needing to do anything on his part. The sick person doesn’t even have to verbally ask for the anointing with oil or indicate they are repentant from their sins (although the desire to repent and be reconciled with God is presupposed). It is just the Church, taking one of its members, into its arms at their moment of greatest need.

Here we should take a second to say what a sacrament is … a sacrament is a thing that actually does what is symbolizes, and they are all over the Bible. Baptism with water – washes away sins. We saw the laying on of hands for Conformation and Ordination in the book of Acts. And of course, we say the breaking of the bread (or the Eucharist) in Matthew and Acts.

This sacrament of anointing with oil to heal the sick was instituted by Jesus. Tomorrow we will begin the Gospel of Mark and in Chapter 6 we will see:

12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons AND ANOINTED WITH OIL many who were sick and healed them.

Thus, this anointing of the sick is not something James made up or is telling the faithful to do as a symbol. James is instructing them in the way he was instructed by Jesus. This shows James has certain priests or assistants under him and he is instructing them in the same manner as Jesus. This implies hierarchy and the passing on of authority.

Look at what else James says:

19 My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

What does it mean to “wander from the truth” and then to be “brought back”. This clearly means that someone who knows the Gospel and is saved can be lost! James says such a person is a “sinner”. Clearly, just b/c you have become a Christian, that doesn’t guarantee that you will never sin again or stay true the Gospel. The Holy Spirit may certainly have indwelled you but you still have free will. You can still be unresponsive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and you can still fall into error. But the Good news is that the person who has fallen into error can be brought back. Again this forces us to face the ultimate question – How do we know truth from error?

Fortunately, as we have seen many times, the Bible says the Holy Spirit will speak definitively through the Church and thus we can know the true Gospel from the teaching of the Church and from Sacred Tradition (as Paul said in Thessalonians).

5 thoughts on “Bible 1 Yr – Day 119 – The Anointing of the Sick”

  1. Healings have always been the subject I find most fascinating when I read Scripture. I don’t think there is anything more wonderful to read the Lord curing someone of an ailment or disease. To be fully cured of something that you have struggled with your whole life must be better than anything else on the planet. And I have no doubt that those healing took place.

    “Think about that, this means that someone who is sick, possibly w/ fever, delirious, near death and possibly even unable to speak will be saved by this sacrament. The verse doesn’t say anything about the sick person needing to do anything on his part. The sick person doesn’t even have to verbally ask for the anointing with oil or indicate they are repentant from their sins (although the desire to repent and be reconciled with God is presupposed). It is just the Church, taking one of its members, into its arms at their moment of greatest need.”

    My aunt Margaret was as Catholic as they come. She was at church every Sunday, every Monday, she was there counting the money and doing the books, refreshments for CCD, flowers on the altar, you name it, she was involved.

    I didn’t know how old she was when she was diagnosed with mouth cancer, but I’d say late 80’s.
    After they ran her on some strong drugs to fight it, she wound up being bed-ridden for the remaining 4 years of her life, and never got rid of the cancer.

    I wasn’t there when it happened, but she did tell me the priest came over and anointed her and prayed over her. And you know what, she never got out of that bed and just slowly wasted away.

    So what am I suppose take away from that? I know in my heart that the healings Jesus and the apostles did were real, but when I hear about it being applied to someone I know and have it not work, that bothers me.

  2. Jesus healed many people. The Apostles healed many people. But even combined they did not heal every physically sick person in the world. We don’t know why God chooses to heal one person and not another. However, in the Catholic understanding of things, suffering is redemptive. We are so closely joined to Christ that our suffering is joined to his on the cross. We are so closely joined to Christ that the merit of his suffering is added to our suffering thereby making our suffering meritorious.

    Further, these healings continue within the Church today. Just google “healings at lourdes” and check out the first couple of links. However, even though thousands travel their a years, hundreds are healed and a few have been recognized as official miracles, not everyone who goes is PHYSICALLY healed. But I would venture to guess that most are spiritually healed. And that is what this passage is really saying, physical healing might come, but spiritual healing – the forgiveness of your sins – is guaranteed.

  3. I know that Jesus and his disciples didn’t heal everyone in the world, but everyone that came to them needing healing was healed. I don’t read “not everyone was healed”, I read, “he healed them all”

    Matthew 8:16King James Version (KJV)
    16 When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:

    Matthew 12:15King James Version (KJV)
    15 But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;

    Matthew 19:2King James Version (KJV)
    2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.

    Luke 9:11King James Version (KJV)
    11 And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.

    Acts 5:16King James Version (KJV)
    16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.

    These are just a few.
    So, if everyone that came to Jesus and his disciples got healed every time, why doesn’t it work the same way today?

  4. You are correct that in these instances everyone brought to him was healed but that still doesn’t mean that everyone who asked for healing every time was healed. Particularly, the Apostles, who disbursed throughout the known world probably encountered tens of thousands of sick people and we have no record of them healing everyone they came in contact with.

    Further, St. Paul himself had a “thorn in the flesh” that the 3x asked to be healed and God denied him saying that he needed something to keep him from becoming boastful. If St. Paul needed that that that is true even more so for the rest of us.

    What we can know for sure is that one of the reasons people are healed is to establish the credibility of the healer. Jesus even says that the blind man he cures is done so as to manifest God’s glory. So many of the healings done by Jesus and the Apostles are to establish their bona fides. We still see this today, when a new area is evangelized for the first time the occurrence of miracles tends to increase. St Patrick in Ireland for example. Another great example is the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.

    1. The truth is healing is something I believe can happen, and does happen but it’s not gods every day way of healing it’s a miracle. We need to also to remember God teaches through him not healing as much as through healing! Paul several times asked for the thorne to be removed, but God said my grace is sufficient! Grace!

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