In the votive Mass for the sick, we might opt for the story behind the canticle of Isaiah 38.
Maybe it’s an easy choice to pair this reading with that lyric in the responsorial psalm slot. I don’t know why this passage from the Bible’s history books was omitted from pastoral care, but retained for Mass. Maybe because it is quite blunt, the prophet brings a message of finality to his king:
In those days,
when Hezekiah was mortally ill,
the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz,
came and said to him:
“Thus says the Lord:
Put your house in order,
for you are about to die;
you shall not recover.”
He turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord:
“Ah, Lord, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly
I conducted myself in your presence,
doing what was good in your sight!”
Quite similar to a lament we might read or sing in the Psalms. The faithful believer pokes at God’s memory: I did my best for you! The king turns from prayer to tears, and this was enough to provoke a measure of mercy from the Almighty:
And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Before Isaiah had left the central courtyard,
the word of the Lord came to him:
Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people:
“Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father:
I have heard your prayer;
I have seen your tears.
Now I am healing you.
On the third day you shall go up
to the house of the Lord.
I will add to your life fifteen years.
I will rescue you and this city
from the hand of the king of Assyria;
I will be a shield to this city
for my own sake and the sake of David my servant.”
Not only is the king relieved of his illness, but the Lord spreads his mercy to the nation as well. There will be not be conquest and humiliation, at least not while Hezekiah is alive on the throne.
What does this mean for today? Death can cause great disruption to a family. Perhaps this reading suits if loved ones are facing financial or personal problems as a result of a serious illness. No prayer for the sick one should neglect the burden of caregivers.
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.