In the Gospels, Jesus’ first liturgical role was a reader at a synagogue service (Luke 4:18-19). He cited this passage in Isaiah:
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring good news
to the afflicted,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
release to the prisoners,
To announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God;
To comfort all who mourn;
to place on those who mourn in Zion
a diadem instead of ashes,
To give them oil of gladness instead of mourning,
a glorious mantle instead of a faint spirit.
When we are sick, how often do we await a diagnosis with some concern? The doctor greets us. We replay, “Give us some good news.” Sometimes it is good: the tumor is benign, we can arrest your infection, your child will be okay, your spouse will live.
Sometimes the prognosis is less good, and we might face an arduous journey ahead with possible sacrifice and anguish for our loved ones.
Jesus continues to proclaim good news, if we listen and embrace his friendship. He will bind wounds, tell us we are free, convince us we are God’s favored child, comfort us, hint at a future joy to come. All that might seem far away. But if we are ready to hear it, what a report it can be.
My take is that this reading needs to be used with care. For a truly discouraged person, this goodness will seem hollow. But if a person is being anointed for a condition less serious than once thought, perhaps it will be a moment of gladness, a reminder of God’s care.
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.