Grace to you!
At the Confessional and during the anointing of the sick, priests witness one of the most incredible connections with human feelings and frailties, as well as an instant power of God’s grace of healing. Not surprisingly, since both sacraments (Confession and Anointing of the Sick) are unique for their healing graces; hence they are called the sacraments of healing.
May I share a few thoughts about healing versus cure. Healing shouldn’t be understood as cure. Cure relates to the actual treatment of an ailment (sickness or injury), resulting in bodily wellbeing. Healing goes deeper. While it may entail cure, it is not necessarily about cure as it is about inner wholeness, without which the sick person would not be at peace. Healing can be understood as being at peace with a cured or uncured situation of sickness.
For instance, the entire emotional, psychological and spiritual dispositions of the sick person could only be restored to balance, not by pills, but by more emotional and spiritual connections. Chaplains at hospitals would tell how their presence adds such a big therapeutic value to the care of the sick. So also, the presence of the sick person’s loved ones.
Regarding the grace of healing, therefore, the sacrament of anointing of the sick (see James 5:14-15) has a unique grace of healing which it confers on the sick. The grace isn’t about cure, but about healing. Many times, people have also received actual physical healing when they were anointed, but the healing from within is the special grace of this sacrament.
You remember that time a priest visited you (perhaps, your health was having a turn for the worse); or it could be the priest visited your loved one who needed anointing. After the anointing, you or the person felt peace with your situation. There was a new insight on the suffering, a better disposition to fight on, the inspiration to unite your suffering with the suffering of Christ on the cross and to offer it as prayer for many who are suffering, plus a positive perspective about suffering. Such grace is granted by this sacrament.
In addition, there is the healing of the soul from any dirt of sin. Hence, often Confession is administered (and if the sick can’t confess, absolution is granted), calling the grace of forgiveness upon the sick.
For those in their final stage of life (which is why this sacrament was popularly regarded as the Last Rite or Extreme Unction), the Apostolic Blessing, also called Apostolic Pardon, is granted, preparing the person for the final homecoming in heaven.
A few words about Apostolic Blessing are appropriate here since many Catholics don’t know about it. Apostolic Blessing is when the priest applies the grace of “[binding and] losing” (Matthew 18:18) to a sick member of the Church who is in his or her final moments of life on earth. The essence is to apply the grace of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus to them so their sins, having been forgiven, and the punishment due to sin having been remitted, they will be ready for the final homecoming in heaven.
See two samples of the prayer of Apostolic Blessing and appreciate what it does: “Through the holy mysteries of our redemption may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May he open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.”
The other version goes like this: “By the authority which the Apostolic See has given me, I grant you a full pardon and the remission of all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
May this grace be granted me when it’s time to go home. Amen. It’s my prayer for you too.
On this Day 26 of Advent, how about we offer some prayers of thanksgiving to God who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.