One time a priest was summoned in haste by a woman taken deathly ill. He answered the call, though somewhat puzzled, for he knew that she was not from his parish, and was, moreover, a very devoted worker in another parish. While he was waiting to be shown to her room, he talked to her little daughter. “It’s nice to know that your mother thought of me in her illness,” he said. “Is your own Pastor away?” “Oh, no,” answered the girl matter-of-factly, “he’s home. Only we thought it might be something contagious –and we didn’t want to take any risks.”
Close your eyes and picture the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.
What image comes to mind? Extreme Unction, The Last Rites. You might picture a priest standing at a hospital bedside. (You should see sometimes the look people give me when I’m walking in the hospital! It’s like I’m the angel of death instead of a minister of life!). But there’s no need to wait until you’re dying to receive this Sacrament!
Both the first reading and the Gospel today present a leper who asks for healing, obeys what is commanded, experiences healing, and then worships God. The distinctive element is found in the Gospel where encounters with Jesus leads to the declaration, “Your faith has saved you.” Salvation is not ultimately freedom from disease (that’s great when it happens!) but relationship with Jesus, now, and forever.
Our mission as the Church is to do as Jesus did. On nearly every page of the Gospels we hear of Jesus’ concern for the sick. Healing was essential to the mission of his disciples as well. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the Church continues this Sacrament of Healing.
If you are seriously ill or preparing for a serious surgery, please don’t hesitate to ask
Fr. Chance or me for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
Rev. Mark Zacker