God loves us as we are. God’s mercy is boundless. It is hard for us to believe this. We do not earn God’s love. It is not offered because we are worthy. God just loves us. And intrinsic to this boundless love is God’s equally boundless mercy and forgiveness. All we have to do is ask, and it is given. And we begin again, re-directed and renewed in our commitment to Jesus as our way, our truth and our life. And so the Catholic Church has a Rite of Penance.
We all know some story from the Gospels where Jesus heals someone who is ill or suffering. As Christians we believe that Jesus is with us in every human experience, including when we are ill, burdened or suffering in any way. Jesus stands with us, offering us love and peace, strength and healing. And so the Church has the Sacrament of Anointing the Sick.
The Rite of Penance
May God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins,
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
May the Lord guide your hearts in the way of his love
and fill you with Christ-like patience. Amen.
(Rite of Penance)
Penance comes from a Greek word that means to change direction. It is the sacrament that helps us acknowledge the frailty and limits of our humanity. By honestly owning, naming and expressing sorrow for where we have failed, we can experience forgiveness which in turn, deepens our capacity to love.
The Sacrament of Penance then allows us to start afresh and re-invigorates our baptismal commitment to be 'other Christs' in the world.
This Sacrament is celebrated by 3 different Rites of Reconciliation:
Rite 1: In the light of God's Word, the individual penitent confesses to the priest, expressing sorrow for words, actions or omissions that have hurt others. By laying on of hands, the sign of the cross and words of absolution, the priest mediates the mercy and forgiveness of God and of the community.
Rite 2: Highlights the community dimension of sin. Members of the community gather with several priests to review their lives in the light of God's Word and acknowledge their sinfulness. After individual confession and absolution, this rite concludes with communal prayer of praise and thanksgiving.
Rite 3: Also highlights the communal dimension of sin. The community gathers, usually with one priest, and together acknowledges sinfulness and sorrow and general absolution is given. This rite is reserved for times of crisis or emergency eg when soldiers are going into battle.
The Rite of Penance also includes the option for Penitential Services. These can be prepared by the community to respond to any communal need for healing and forgiveness. They do not require an ordained minister. They are a marvellous untapped resource.
Anointing of the Sick
Through this holy anointing,
May the Lord in his love and mercy
Help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Father in heaven, through this holy anointing,
Grant us comfort in our suffering.
When we are afraid, give us courage,
When afflicted, give us patience,
When dejected afford us hope,
And when alone assure us of the support of your holy people.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Pastoral Care of the Sick)
This sacrament continues Jesus' ministry of care and compassion to the sick and frail in our communities. Sickness and pain can often be a heavy burden for people. When the priest, in the name of the faith community, anoints the person with the Oil of the Sick, the strengthening power of oil and the comfort of touch remind the sick person that they are not alone in their suffering, but held in prayer by the community.
This realisation can bring peace of mind and sometimes even healing of the body.
Since Vatican II, the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick has undergone both a change of name (no longer Extreme Unction) and meaning. It is no longer a sacrament for those at the point of death. Rather the appropriate time is whenever any one of the faithful is sick. (c/f Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy No 73).