The Gospel for today’s Mass (Mark 6:7-13) tells us how the twelve apostles were sent through all the towns and villages of Palestine. They preached the need to repent in order to enter the Kingdom of God. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.
Oil was often used to heal wounds (see Isaiah 1:6 & Luke 10:34). In these few words from Mark describing how the apostles were sent and anointed with oil many that were sick, the Church has seen the first suggestion of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick which was instituted by Our Lord and later recommended to the faithful by the Apostle Saint James (James 5:14).
Jesus always showed enormous compassion toward the sick. “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk; lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Good News preached to them.” (Matthew 11:5)
In the parable of the wedding feast, the servants received this order: “Go to to the streets… and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame…” (Luke 14:21)
There are many passages in which we see Jesus moved to compassion at the sight of pain and sickness, and observe that He healed many as an outward sign of the spiritual healing He worked in souls. Jesus wants us to imitate him by showing effective compassion towards those who suffer illness and any kind of pain.
The Second Vatican Council declared: “The Church encompasses with her love all those who are afflicted by human misery, and she recognizes in those who are poor and who suffer, the image of her poor and suffering founder. She does all in her power to relieve their need and in their persons she strives to serve Christ.” (Lumen gentium, 8)
Especially during this Year of Mercy, when our Holy Father is reminding us of the importance of carrying out all the corporal works of mercy we should take special care in imitating our Lord. Among the ways we can show our concern for the sick are: keeping them company and visiting them as often as is opportune; trying to take away from them any anxiety they may have about their illness; making it easy for them to rest and to carry out the doctor’s instructions; making the time we spend with them pleasant for them, so not as to let them feel lonely; helping them to offer up their pain to God and to sanctify it; making sure they receive the sacraments. We must not forget that they are the Church’s treasure, that they are very powerful in the eyes of God and that Our Lord looks on them with a special love.