February 25th, 2006
Tom Bannantine, S.J.
School of Nursing
Click here for a photo of and information
on this writer.
Click on the link below to send an e-mail
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.
to the writer of this reflection.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook