Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.
Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Pope Francis must love this reading…and indeed the entire Letter of James. It offers us a compendium of practical wisdom for living out the Holy Father’s Gospel of Mercy. If someone is suffering and in need, we mustn’t just stand there. Rather, as James invites, get out of your chair, out of your house, out of your comfort zone and reach out to someone in distress. That’s what Pope Francis did when, as Father and then Cardinal Bergoglio, he spent time with the poor and downtrodden in the slums of Buenos Aires. It’s what he accomplishes as Pope as he hears confessions in St. Peter’s Square, makes phone calls to folks in need, and initiates practical Church strategies to meet “the poor” of all kinds…with whatever personal or spiritual challenges they face.
Of course we can pray for those suffering and in need. And, depending on our personal circumstances, that may be all that we are able to offer. The Letter of James—and indeed the example of Jesus—reminds me that I also have to get out of my chair, leave my house, and become not only a “hearer” of God’s word, but also “doer” of all that Jesus asks and invites…even if that means getting my hands dirty. Come, Holy Spirit! Stretch my heart. Send me forth as a messenger of your healing and hope.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
Holy Spirit, may my heart be open to the Word of God; may my heart be open to all that is good; may my heart be open to the beauty of God, to each person you send across my path. Come, Holy Spirit!
—Pope Francis, General Audience Catechesis, May 15, 2013.