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Blog 10: Be Transformed - Raised to Life

By: Dr. Bob Schuchts

 

The kingdom of God is 

at hand. Cure the sick, 

raise the dead....

Matthew 10:7-8

Anointing of the Sick 

Sickness brings us face to face with death and hopelessness: “Every illness can make us glimpse death” (CCC, 1500). “Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair [i.e., hopelessness]” (CCC, 1501). Conversely, every healing encounter with the risen Lord reveals a glimpse of the glory of his resurrection life. The Roman Rite for Anointing of the Sick speaks of this reality: “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you withthe grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up” (emphasis added).

"Raise You Up"

Notice the words “raise you up” in the descriptions and prayers for this sacrament. They are an allusion to the resurrection and are reminiscent of similar references by the authors of the New Testament when speaking of Jesus’ healing ministry. First, Matthew observes: “Jesus entered the house of Peter, and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, the fever left her, and she rose and waited on him” (Mt 8:14–15, emphasis added). 

Anointing in the Early Church

Similarly, St. James adds: “Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven” (Jas 5:14–15, emphasis added). This passage from James reveals the rudimentary form of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick in the earliest days of the Church. This sacrament is a sign of Christ’s resurrection life healing us now and a prefiguring of the final resurrection where we will be made completely whole. On that final day, we will be “raised to life,” and our identity completely restored and made new, in him.

Antidote for Hopelessness and Death

Jesus’ resurrection is the promise and fulfillment of all God purposed for us when he created us: a life full of hope and health, free from sickness, death, and despair. Before sin entered the world, sickness and death did not exist. Neither did hopelessness, which is the wound most closely associated with sickness and death. Like each of the other wounds that we have been exploring throughout this book, hopelessness took hold in the human heart with Adam and Eve’s disobedience and separation from God.

From the instant sin entered the world, all of creation was doomed to a hopeless death. In our own lives, sin mysteriously ushers doom, disease, and despair into our bodies and souls—the symptoms of death (see Deuteronomy 28; Romans 5–7; CCC, 1502). We all have places in our hearts where we have experienced the disappointment of love, discouragement over a loss of purpose, and the deadening of our deepest unmet desires. These spiritual deaths are at the root of so much of the hopelessness we experience on a day-to-day basis. Left untended these pockets of despair can result in profound emptiness and futility that can demoralize our entire life. What began as a small disappointment can lead to a lifetime of disconnection, futility, sickness, and even demise.

Hope and Life Restored

The Anointing of the Sick is intended to bring both healing to those who are sick (and by extension their loved ones) and to prepare the dying for eternal life. In this second aspect, it is sometimes referred to as Last Rites and is coupled with the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion. I can personally attest to the dramatic impact this sacrament can have in our lives and in the lives of our loved ones. I shared in my book Be Healed about my experience when my brother Dave received this sacrament at the point of death. After receiving the anointing, God brought him back from the edge of death and literally raised him up from his deathbed for two weeks. This brief respite from death provided our family an opportunity to experience reconciliation and healing, bringing lasting hope and encouragement for each one of us.

Excerpts from Be Transformed, pages 138-140.

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