Last week I was invited by the Year 4 teachers at Mary MacKillop Primary School, Birkdale to talk to the students about the Anointing of the Sick. Learning about the seven sacraments of the Church is part of the Religious Education curriculum in our Catholic schools. As a school teacher myself (still registered) I was delighted by the opportunity to be a guest teacher, teaching alongside the student’s regular classroom teachers.
The curriculum guidelines highlight the importance of the students being able to identify the signs and symbols of each sacrament, so this was a focus of my discussion. I asked the students, “why do you think the priest anoints the forehead with oil (in the sign of the cross)?” I received some great answers one was, “to remind the sick person that Christ healed the sick... and we know things in our head; our mind”. I was quite impressed by this answer. Next, I asked “why then does the priest anoint the palms of the hands?” A little girl threw her hand up so quickly that I had to ask her for her answer. Her response was, “Jesus had his hands nailed to the cross and so as the sick person suffers they are reminded that Jesus knew what it was like to feel pain and also that the person doesn’t suffer alone; Jesus is with them in their pain”. I thought to myself, wow... what a profound answer for an 8 year old. I was gobsmacked. Children surprise us at times with their clarity and insight. Do you agree?
Could this type of wisdom be related to Jesus’ message in today’s gospel? “Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” (Mk 9:37)