Maundy Thursday 18 April

 14Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.

Anointing with oil, is not a magic act. It is a sign that God is present in the material realities of all life. And God is present in the midst of sickness and suffering.

But, like all sacramental acts, anointing supports what it signifies. We are physical material beings. Our awareness of the intangible divine Presence is strengthened by our use of physical signs.

The incarnation of Jesus announces that God is present in the physical stuff of life. There is no dimension of creation from which the presence of the Divine is excluded. God works through the stuff of life. Richard Rohr likes to suggest that in the incarnation Jesus came, not so much into creation, as from creation. The physical manifestation of God in the form of Jesus was of the stuff of the earth, signifying for all time that God is excluded from no part of life and God excludes no part of life.

It is the same with “elders.” We “call for the elders of the church,” not because they are extra holy or have some special divine power that others lack. We “call for the elders of the church,” because the church has chosen these people and set them aside to signify the presence and action of God in and through the community of faith.

The elders are people the community has decided to trust as vehicles to signify divine Presence, to remind us of what we already know to be true. We are not alone. God is present with us no matter what our suffering may be. The elder stands as a physical tangible reminder and embodiment of the truth of the Spirit’s work in every situation.

Sometimes we need to hear an audible voice, or feel a physical touch by laying on of hands or anointing with oil. Sound and sensation reinforce our awareness of and trust in the work of the Spirit. Awareness and trust are tools of healing in our lives.