Sometimes there is a connecting thread between sin and sickness that we can’t avoid. Other times I think it’s over-used. Remember the query to Jesus that opens John 9? Was it the blind man’s sin or that of his parents? If you aren’t supervising your child’s weapon play, then yes, it might be a father or mother at fault. A surprise birth defect from an untested medication, well, it might be a corporation’s sin, but good luck getting them to admit it.
That said, serious illness is an opportunity to review one’s life. Conduct an examen, if you will. Maybe review relationships that might be put right before dying.
A person confronts an inevitable change in routine, vigor, or personal independence. Is it a crafty steward moment? True or not, there’s always an advantage to setting things right with God. Are we convinced we’re so just? Such a good Christian? Let’s read one gospel possibility for anointing of the sick or viaticum:
(Jesus) then addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position
and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you
that I am not like the rest of humanity
—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—
even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week,
and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for everyone who exalts (themselves) will be humbled,
and the one who humbles (themselves) will be exalted.”
Serious illness can be a humbling, if not humiliating experience. We have lost our fitness, our beauty, our stamina, our status in the land of the living and able. Sometimes it can be right to submit to reality. I don’t look upon that as the will of God we have lost our strength, our good looks, our job, or such. God hates infirmity as much as any merciful person does. But can we find in ourselves the opportunity to transcend our suffering to be merciful–to show loving kindness to others?
When we were well, did we avoid the ill? Did we thank God we were not like those people without health insurance? Who had to work menial jobs well into their middle age or even elderly years? Who had lifestyles of dissipation and hard living? In our bedridden days, our times of convalescence, will we take the time that’s been found for us to ponder and reflect on any sense of personal justification?
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.