Scripture for the Sick or Dying: Luke 11:5-13

Care for people who are sick and dying involves prayer. Sometimes the answer is not forthcoming. Sometimes prayer must be persistent:

And (Jesus) said to them,
“Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived
at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,’
and he says in reply from within,
‘Do not bother me;
the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you, if he does not get up
to give him the loaves because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.

This passage reminds me of the parable of the two sons in Matthew 21:28-32. One son can’t be bothered with the father’s request for work, declining verbally, just as the neighbor does here. Yet soon enough, the son heads to the fields, a contrast to the other who vowed a day’s work, but reneged on that commitment.

It strikes me that we can be cautious and skeptical about easy and immediate answers to serious prayer. Can an answered prayer be too good to be true? When serious illness arrives, are we liable to seek a quick fix? What does it say if a sick person and her or his family must be more insistent with God? Does that shock? Why should it; God seems big enough to handle a bit of justified nagging.

And if it seems God is dilly-dallying in response to our fervent and persistent prayer, maybe the disciple’s response is to continue in the vein of intercession. What does the Lord tell us:

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks,
the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his (child) a snake
when (she or) he asks for a fish?
Or hand (them) a scorpion
when (they ask) for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

It’s a long passage, especially for a person seriously ill. There’s a lot of richness here: Eucharistic allusions (bread), eschatology (the midnight hour), a contrast of animals (snake/fall and fish/feeding miracle), the Holy Spirit, to name some of the most prominent. It’s the kind of passage so unique to Luke that invites, even demands, extended reflection.

It shows that the experience of being ill is not an isolation. It touches on many Christian experiences–other sacraments, various liturgical seasons, the mystical tradition of insistent and constant prayer. These are all things with which a sick person may want to maintain connections.

For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Pastoral Care of the Sick, Scripture. Bookmark the permalink.

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