Liturgy Corner #6
"And the prayer of faith will save the sick man..."
This is an important text for us. It is our basis for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick: James 5:14-15, "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man...." The prayer of faith will "save" the sick man--when we hear this, because we usually think of "save" in the more narrow sense of "saving" a soul, we don't see the full richness and breadth of this wonderful Biblical concept. For Jesus, to save was not simply to give eternal salvation to a soul. It meant to give transforming healing grace and fullness of life to the entire person. While the Greek word "sozo", hear translated as "save" usually refers to salvation, there are also times when it refers to healing or curing someone: Jairus asks Jesus to come and "heal" (sozo) his daughter (Matthew 5:23). The woman with the flow of blood knows that if she just touches His cloak she will be "healed" (sozo)(Matthew 9:21). There is often a direct reference to eternal salvation, e.g. Matthew 10:22: "And you will be hated by all for my Name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved" (sozo). There is a clear link between healing and salvation in Jesus' plan for us. His is not simply a pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die approach to salvation. Jesus wants to save the fullness of who we are, and part of His plan for that salvation is our full restoration: spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, etc. James hints at this. He gives an example of what to do when you are sick--call the elders and their prayer and anointing will heal you. The Church recognizes that Jesus' plan for us embraces the fullness of who we are when it recognizes that this healing spoken of by James is also Sacramental, meaning, it directly impacts our salvation by providing us with sanctifying grace--the grace that saves us.
In our charismatic life we pray for healing and anoint people with oil, inspired by this passage in James. Our own practice at Christ the King of having prayer for healing after the 9 a.m. Mass on the first Sunday of the month is an example of this type of prayer. We are simply taking advantage of the mercy of God and the availability of His power to ask for healing for those of us who have some physical need. It is not the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick that people are receiving. Jesus heals in many ways, some Sacramental, some not. Rather, it is the healing ministry of their brothers and sisters in Jesus, calling on the healing power of the Spirit, that is being exercised. Rarely, from time to time during those healing prayers after Mass, if the priest discerns that it is appropriate, he may give someone the actual Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. But usually, we are simply exercising our ministry of love and support and charismatic power for each other, calling on the God Who has saved us to continue His healing work in our lives.