Updated: May 29
By Luke Lancaster
The sacrament of the anointing of the sick is peculiar to Catholics. We consider the simple anointing with oil on the forehead to be something which channels God's grace to us. Why is that, though?
There are two places in Scripture where we get this idea. The first is found in Mark’s Gospel, 6:13, where Jesus tells the apostles to anoint with oil those who are sick. Those sick people would be "healed" according to Jesus. What kind of healing, though? Jesus very frequently connected physical healing with spiritual healing. Consider a few chapters earlier in Mark 2, where the paralytic has his sins forgiven and can walk again. Both his spirit and his body were healed by Christ.
Consider James 5:14-15 as well:
"Is anyone 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. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (James 5:14-15).
James says that if someone is sick, that he should call for the presbyters of the Church to pray for the person and anoint them with oil.Through that, the sick person will be healed and his sins forgiven. Both the physical and spiritual healing would occur.
Now, if I were to go into my kitchen and rub some oil on my forehead, it isn't going to get rid of my flu! It isn't going to effect my relationship with God, either. However, if a presbyter/priest comes to do so, both my soul and body will be healed. That is why it is called a sacrament.