Reconciliation Lectionary: James 5:13-16

mary-the-penitent.jpgThis passage is well-utilized for the Anointing of the Sick, but does that one line make it suitable for Reconciliation? Let’s read, then discuss:

Beloved:
Is anyone among you suffering?
He (or she) should pray.
Is anyone in good spirits?
He (or she)should sing a song of praise.
Is anyone among you sick?
He (or she) should summon the presbyters of the church,
and they should pray over him (or her)
and anoint him (or her) with oil in the name of the Lord.
The prayer of faith will save the sick person,
and the Lord will raise him (or her) up.
If he (or she) has committed any sins, he (or she) will be forgiven.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another
and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.

Two models of dealing with sin are described with anointing, each one flirts with being outside the orbit of current Roman practice.

Anointing is seen as the community, through its elders (presbyters), facilitating the “prayer of faith” of a sick person. This prayer responds to God’s grace. This prayer is the occasion of forgiveness. Thus, the believer has direct access to forgiveness, and the local church leaders assist in this process.

The other is the confession of sins to one another. According to the text of the letter, this is accompanied by prayer, and the effect is healing. Prayer is underscored as “very powerful,” and this should be reason enough to bring our sins to prayer and to strive for that “fervent” quality.

Without discounting the experience of sacramental reconciliation, this passage encourages a certain initiative on the part of the penitent. Obviously, a penitent can pray, and pray with fervor. Penitents are also part of a larger community, and can confess, process if you will, their faults and sins with one another. This is a monastic practice with a very long pedigree–perhaps older than Penance form I itself.

And lastly, there is the very laudable, but often missed, piece: penitents praying for one another.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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