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Anointing brings spiritual healing

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 29 April 1992 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The reality of the priestly community can be said to be fulfilled and revealed in an especially meaningful way in the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, about which St. James wrote: "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). As we see, the Letter of James recommends initiative on the part of the sick person who, personally or through his loved ones, asks for the priests to come. It could be said that the common priesthood is already being exercised here in a personal act of participating in the community of life enjoyed by the "saints," that is, by those who have been consecrated in the Holy Spirit, whose anointing is sought. But the letter also shows us that giving help to the sick through anointing is a duty of the priestly ministry performed by "presbyters." This is another time when the priestly community is realized through harmonious and active participation in a sacrament.

2. The initial basis of this sacrament can be found in Jesus' care and concern for the sick. The evangelists tell us that from the very beginning of his public life Jesus showed great love and sincere compassion toward the sick and all the other needy and suffering who sought his help. St. Matthew states that he "cured every disease and illness" (Mt 9:35). For Jesus the countless miraculous cures were the sign of the salvation which he wanted to bring to humanity. Frequently he showed the clear connection in meaning between them, as when he forgave the paralytic his sins and only afterward worked a miracle, in order to show that "the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth" (Mk 2:10). His vision does not stop at mere bodily health; he also looks to the healing of the soul, to spiritual salvation.

3. Jesus' way of acting was part of the plan of his messianic mission, which the prophecy in the Book of Isaiah had described in terms of healing the sick and helping the poor (cf. Is 61:1ff; Lk 4:18-19). It is a mission which, even during his earthly life, Jesus wanted to entrust to his disciples so that they would give help to the needy and especially, healing to the sick. The evangelist Matthew tells us that Jesus "summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness" (Mt 10:1). Mark says that they "drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick" (Mk 6:13). Significantly, in the early Church this aspect of Jesus' messianic mission was highlighted and many pages of the Gospels devoted to it, and also the work he entrusted to his disciples and apostles in connection with his mission was underscored.

4. The Church has made her own the special concern which Jesus had for the sick. On the one hand, she has promoted many endeavors of generous service to their care. On the other hand, with the sacrament of Anointing she has given and continues to give them the healing touch of Christ's own mercy. In this regard it should be noted that sickness is never a mere physical evil; it is also a time of moral and spiritual testing. The sick person has great need of interior strength in order to triumph over this trial. Through sacramental anointing Christ reveals his love and bestows on the sick the interior strength they need. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the oil poured in the wounds of the unfortunate man on the road to Jericho is a simple means of physical care. In the sacrament, the anointing with oil becomes the efficacious sign of grace and spiritual salvation, through the ministry of priests.

5. In the Letter of James we read that the anointing and the priestly prayer have the effects of salvation, comfort and the remission of sins. In commenting on the text of James, the Council of Trent says that this sacrament confers a grace of the Holy Spirit, whose internal anointing, on the one hand, frees the sick person's soul from sin and the remnants of sin, and on the other hand, gives him relief and strength, inspiring in him great trust in the merciful goodness of God (cf. DS 1696). Thus he is helped to bear more readily the discomfort and pain of illness, and to resist with great force the devil's temptations. In addition, the anointing sometimes obtains physical healing for the sick person as well, when that is advantageous for the salvation of his soul. This is the Church's doctrine, which the Council of Trent expounded. Therefore, the sacrament of Anointing bestows a grace of strength which increases the sick person's courage and resistance. It causes spiritual healing, such as the forgiveness of sins, which is accomplished by the sacrament itself through the power of Christ, if there is no obstacle in the soul's disposition. Sometimes it brings physical healing. This is not the sacrament's essential purpose, but when it does take place it shows the salvation given by Christ in the abundance of his love and mercy for all the needy, which he already revealed during his earthly life. Even now his heart beats with that love which continues in his new life in heaven and is poured out upon his human creation through the power of the Holy Spirit.

6. The sacrament of Anointing is thus an effective presence of Christ in every instance of serious illness or physical weakness due to advanced age, in which the presbyters of the Church are called to administer it. The traditional term for this sacrament was "Extreme Unction," because it was considered to be the sacrament of the dying. Vatican II no longer used this expression, so the Anointing could be better seen as the sacrament of the seriously ill, which it is. Therefore, it is not right to wait until the last moment to ask for this sacrament and thus deprive the sick person of the help which the Anointing gives the soul, and sometimes even the body. At the proper time, relatives and friends must express the sick person's desire to receive the sacrament in the case of serious illness. This desire is to be presumed, unless it was rejected, even when the sick person is no longer able to express it formally. It is part of his adherence to Christ through faith in his Word and acceptance of the means of salvation instituted by him and entrusted to the ministry of the Church. Experience also shows that the sacrament gives a spiritual strength which changes the way the sick person feels and gives him relief even in his physical condition. This strength is especially beneficial at the time of death, because it helps in the passage to the afterlife. Let us pray every day that at the end of our lives we may be given that supreme gift of sanctifying grace which, at least in anticipation, is already beatifying!

7. The Second Vatican Council emphasizes the Church's commitment to assist with this holy Anointing at the time of illness, old age and finally death. The Council says that the entire Church asks the Lord for a lessening of the sick person's sufferings, and in this way she shows Christ's love for all the infirm (cf. LG 11). The priest, the minister of the sacrament, expresses this commitment of the Church, "the priestly community," of which the sick person is still an active, participating member doing good works. For this reason, the Church exhorts the suffering to unite themselves to the passion and death of Jesus Christ in order to obtain from him salvation and a more abundant life for the entire People of God. Indeed, the purpose of this sacrament is not only the personal welfare of the sick, but also the spiritual growth of the whole Church. Seen in this light, the Anointing appears as it really is: a supreme form of that participation in the priestly sacrifice of Christ, of which St. Paul said: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church" (Col 1:24).

8. Ever greater attention must be drawn to the contribution which the sick make to the development of the Church's spiritual life. May everyone--the sick, their loved ones, their doctors and others who care for them--always take into account the value suffering has as a way of exercising the Church's universal priesthood, by offering spiritual sacrifice, one's sufferings in union with the passion of Christ. May everyone see in the sick the image of the suffering Christ (Christus patiens), the Christ who, according to the prophecy in the Book of Isaiah about the servant (cf. Is 53:4), bore our infirmities.

We know, by faith and experience, that the sacrifice made by the sick is very fruitful for the Church. The suffering members of the Mystical Body are the ones who most greatly contribute to the intimate union of the whole community with Christ the Savior. The community should help the sick in all the ways indicated by the Council, out of gratitude for the benefits which it receives from them."

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs.

J’accueille avec joie les pèlerins et les visiteurs de langue française présents à cette audience. Je salue cordialement les pèlerins du diocèse de Viviers avec leur Évêque, Monseigneur Hermil, ainsi que les membres de l’Association “Renaissance” d’Amboise. J’adresse un salut amical aux jeunes, en particulier à ceux du diocèse d’Orléans avec leur Évêque, Monseigneur Picandet, et à ceux du lycée de l’Immaculée Conception de Carpentras. Je souhaite que ce séjour à Rome soit l’occasion d’approfondir et d’affermir votre foi au Christ ressuscité. Je donne à tous ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a warm welcome to the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College who will be ordained to the Diaconate to morrow, and to the members of their families. Dear friend: strengthened by the sacramental grace which you will receive at your Ordination, may you model your lives ever more fully on Jesus Christ, the obedient Son of the Father and the faithful Spouse of the Church. Through the example of your personal holiness and your diaconal ministry of liturgy, word and charity,11 may you always help God’s People to grow in faith and to live fully the new life bestowed by the Risen Lord.

Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, from Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Thailand, Korea and the United States, I invoke Almighty God’s abundant blessings.

Ad un gruppo di fedeli giapponesi

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Un cordiale saluto al gruppo, composto da illustri personalità e guidato da Monsignor Stefano Fumio Hamao, vescovo di Yokohama.

Innanzitutto: “Buona Pasqua”! Vi ringrazio di cuore per questa vostra visita. In cambio elevo la preghiera: “Regina coeli, ora pro nobis, alleluia”, invocando su di voi la protezione della Vergine Maria e aggiungendo la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Indem ich mit diesen Worten, liebe deutschsprachige Pilger und Besucher, dazu einlade, als Glieder der priesterlichen Gemeinschaft des Gottesvolkes Anwalt der kranken und alten Menschen zu sein und sie auch und im besonderen durch den Empfang der Krankensalbung an der heilenden Wirkkraft der Auferstehung Christi teilhaben zu lassen, grübe ich Euch recht herzlich. Besonders heibe ich die Kirchenchöre des Bischöflichen Amtes Magdeburg willkommen, ebenso die Mitglieder des Aufsichtsrates und Vorstandes der Pax-Bank Köln sowie die Silbernen Ehejubilare aus dem Bistum Speyer.

Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen und Freunden in der Heimat sowie allen, die uns geistlich verbunden sind, erteile ich mit der Bitte um reiche österliche Gnaden von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo ahora cordialmente a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española. En particular, a los miembros de la Asociación Cristiana Femenina de Mar del Plata (Argentina) y a los socios del Club de la Comunicación, de Madrid.

A todas las personas, familias y grupos procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica.

!Alabado sea Jesucristo!

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Queridos irmãos e irmãs,

Amados “peregrinos de Santa Maria” vindos de Lisboa, e vós peregrinos brasileiros, membros da Ordem Franciscana Secular, saúdo-vos cordialmente e, com a minha Bênção Apostólica, propiciadora de paz e bem para vós, vossas famílias e associações, recomendo-vos um cuidado particular de Cireneus pelos irmãos que sofrem. Que todos - doentes e quantos os tratam - se dêem conta do valor da doença como exercício do “sacerdócio universal” da Igreja. Façam-se portadores da necessidade e vontade do doente em receber o Sacramento dos Enfermos; se o doente não se opôs, essa vontade supõe-se, já que se trata de um meio de salvação, que o doente procurou ao aderir a Cristo e à sua Igreja.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Ta prawda o Kościele jest ta podstawową treścią, którą pragnę przekazać wszystkim moim rodakom, zwłaszcza teraz, w okresie kiedy Kościół w Polsce przeżywa swoje wielkie dni, dni naszych świętych patronów, kiedy po św. Wojciechu przybliżamy się do św. Stanisława, a nade wszystko do 3 maja, do uroczystości Królowej Polski, Patronki naszego narodu, która z Jasnej Góry ą troszczy się o to królewskie kapłaństwo, jakim jest Lud Boży w naszej ojczyźnie, od tysiąclecia żyjący wiarą, żyjący sakramentami Kościoła istarający się czynić dobrze, chociaż często to nam nie wychodzi. Zapewne sa też okresy nasilającego się grzechu, nasilających się zagrożeń i pokus. I dlatego już od zeszłego roku, od czasu mojego przyjazdu do Polski - i tego czerwcowego, i tego sierpniowego, na Dzień Młodzieży - nawoływałem do wielkiej modlitwy. I dziś czynię to samo. Te pokusy się nie cofają, one się nasilają. I dlatego trzeba wielkiej modlitwy. Pani Jasnogórska dała nam przetrwać i zwyciężyć na poprzednim etapie dziejów, nie tylko dla nas, ale dla innych, za wolność waszą i naszą. Trzeba, ażebyśmy teraz nie poddali się innym zagrożeniom naszych dusz, naszej prawdziwej wolności. Największe zagrożenie dla wolności człowieka jest wówczas, kiedy się go zniewala, mówiąc jednocześnie, że się goczyni wolnym. To jest największe niebezpieczeństwo. I temu trzeba się przeciwstawić. To trzeba sobie uświadomić. Nie można oddać się w ręce pokusy, która może wykorzystuje zmęczenie społeczeństwa po długim okresie.

Więc na święta naszych patronów błagam was, błagam was, moi rodacy, błagam was o wielką modlitwę. Kiedy tutaj przejeżdżałem przez plac, starsza kobieta z Polski krzyknęła: “Ratuj Polskę!” Co to znaczy? Że widzi niebezpieczeństwo. Trzeba, żebyśmy widzieli, żebyśmy nie zniszczyli tego dziedzictwa, tego dobra, któreśmy z takim trudem obronili. Żebyśmy sobie nie pozwolili tego zniszczyć. O tym mówiłem w Polsce. Niektórym się to nie podobało. Nie szkodzi, będę mówił stale. Kiedyś powiedział kard. Wyszyński do inteligentów polskich, do pisarzy: Wy macie być - używając porównania ze św. Łukasza - jak pies, który liże rany, a nie jak ten, który zadaje rany. I pierwszy biskup i pierwszy Papież chce być takim liżącym rany naszego narodu psem. Chce być sługą. Niczego innego nie pragnę dla siebie.

Zdaje się, że tę mowę zrozumieli także i nie-Polacy. Jeżeli język był partykularny, to uczucie było uniwersalne.

Ai pellegrini di lingua italiana

Nel rivolgere ora un saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, desidero ricordare il numeroso gruppo appartenente alla Società Operaia di Mutuo soccorso della città di Vasto. Sono lieto di salutare oggi tutti i membri di tale sodalizio, che, sorto per attuare la giustizia sociale secondo i principi cristiani, opera per la promozione dell’uomo e la solidarietà fraterna.

Rivolgo il mio pensiero anche agli Ufficiali e ai soldati del 235° Battaglione di Ascoli Piceno, guidati dal Colonnello Comandante e dal Cappellano. Auspico che il tempo del servizio militare offra a tutti una valida esperienza di vita comunitaria, insieme con opportune occasioni di dialogo e di testimonianze cristiane.

Saluto, infine, con particolare affetto i pellegrini della diocesi di Cuneo, che festeggiano con questo pellegrinaggio a Roma il loro XXV anno di Matrimonio. Vi esorto di cuore a continuare con fervore il vostro cammino di fede e di carità. Il Signore vi illumini sempre e vi sostenga con la Sua grazia.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli Sposi novelli

Rivolgo ora un pensiero cordiale a tutti i Giovani qui presenti, tra i quali sono gli alunni ed i professori della Scuola Media Statale “Giuseppe Mazzini” di Minervino Murge, diocesi di Andria; saluto pure gli Ammalati e gli Sposi novelli, ai quali addito la grande figura di Santa Caterina da Siena, di cui oggi celebriamo la memoria liturgica.

Con coerenza cristiana Ella seppe unire un intenso amore e una profonda dedizione per la Chiesa ad una efficace sollecitudine in favore della comunità civile.

Voi, carissimi giovani, inseriti con differenti compiti e ruoli all’interno della società, siete chiamati a coniugare la professione della fede nel Signore risorto, con l’impegno della solidarietà, della condivisione, dell’aiuto reciproco, della mutua assistenza.

Voi, malati e sofferenti, siate testimoni del Cristo risorto il quale mostra ai discepoli le piaghe ormai gloriose della sua Passione.

E voi, sposi novelli, fate in modo che la fede della vostra famiglia si ispiri sempre alla mutua dedizione e all’amore fedele.

Con tali auspici, vi imparto volentieri la propiziatrice Benedizione Apostolica.

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