Daily Reflection
February 25th, 2006

Tom Bannantine, S.J.

School of Nursing
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James 5:13-20
Psalm 141:1-2, 3 and 8
Mark 10:13-16

The first scripture reading today is not very familiar to most of us since it is not read often in the cycle of readings for the Church year. However, it is very familiar to me. The first paragraph of this reading from St. James is the basis for the opening prayer of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. As a hospital chaplain for many years, I have prayed this prayer countless times with sick people. I have also used this prayer in parish anointing services. I have always found the words of St. James very helpful in explaining the revised rite of the Sacrament to the sick and to their families. This was especially true when I began hospital ministry in the mid 1970's when the revised rite of the sacrament was very new and needed to be explained and properly understood.

St. James asks:"Is anyone among you sick?" Then he tells us that those who are sick are candidates for anointing. Notice that St. James does not ask: is anyone among you dying? While we can and do anoint people who are dying, the proper candidates for the sacrament are all sick people, not just the dying. Our fervent hope is that the sacrament will help the sick to recover good health. This has several practical applications.

Sick people are encouraged to ask for the sacrament whenever they are sick, and not to wait until they are on their death bed. The sacrament should be familiar to sick people both when they are hospitalized and when they are able to participate in a communal anointing service. Sick people and their families should not fear that when the priest comes to anoint them their life is about to end. Rather they should regard the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick as a means of being healed of their sickness. They should heed the words of St. James: "The Lord will raise him up." The Lord will help them to recover good health and rise from their soick bed. Physical healing and recovery from illness are a very real consequence of the Sacrment of the Anointing of the Sick. St. James knew that very well. While Jesus was still here on earth the apostles went on missionary journeys and experienced the power of God working through them to heal the sick. Later they continued to let God work through them to heal the sick.

St. James also speaks of the forgivness of sin as a result of the sacrament, and he exhorts all of us who listen to his words to repentance and confession when we have sinned. The example of Elijah, the Old Testament prophet, demonstrates how God does wondrous things through those who believe in him and act in his name. All of us suffer illnesses from time to time. When we are seriously ill we need to listen to these words of St. James and avail ourselves of the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

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