At the beginning of today’s First Reading James tackles how we should face suffering, illness, and good times: prayer. Prayer is not just for when we’re down; our prayer simply changes based on our circumstances. In good times we praise God, the source of all blessings. In times of suffering, we pray for strength to endure our trials and for healing. However, we don’t just pray for ourselves; our prayer in time of suffering is very powerful, which is why the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick (alluded to in this passage), when administered, is a consecration of its recipient’s sufferings for the spiritual benefit of others, as well as a moment when the whole Church commends him or her to the Lord. Even if physical healing does not result, the afflicted person receives spiritual healing.
James also reminds us of the effectiveness of a righteous man’s prayer. The secret to effective prayer is to seek God’s will, to ask that it be done and to collaborate in its accomplishment. Elijah proclaimed a drought at the Lord’s command to punish Israel for its sins, and, when the Lord willed it, summoned the rain to end the drought. It wasn’t just his agenda. It is through this union of wills that we are able to seek out those who stray from the truth and sin so that they too can be spared spiritual death.
Whether physically healthy or not, spiritual health is the most important and we must strive to ensure everyone’s spiritual health. Let’s offer up our sufferings today and help anyone spiritually ill to be restored to health through our prayers, the sacraments, and a holy life.
Readings: James 5:13–20; Psalm 141:1–3, 8; Mark 10:13–16. See also 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.