An interesting Lectionary choice for Masses for the Sick:
“I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me
that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does
he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned
because of the word that I spoke to you.
How to interpret this? An individual believer beset with a life-changing or -ending illness has aspects of her or his life pruned away? Activity, job, family connections, finances, or the like? No matter what is lost, will the sick person remain faithful and still perceive the Lord remains a companion and not someone who has abandoned the ill one for other, more active disciples?
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Interpreted for the sick person, this is truly countercultural for a society that values contribution to an active life above most any other consideration:
Whoever remains in me and I in (them)
will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Remember, this is from the Last Supper account in the fourth Gospel:
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit
and become my disciples.
A specific warning not to emulate the betrayer within the Twelve? Or a caution against any apostate? Objectively speaking, a seriously sick person is still urged to be a disciple, and the supernatural fruits of faith are surely not constrained by one’s activities, or lack thereof. The witness of intercessory prayer, of reconciliation, of simply bearing the infirmities of illness with courage and dignity–these all make a difference.
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.