Prayer, healing, childlike faith and hope…these themes wind their way through today’s readings leading us to the spiritual perfection God asks of us.
In our first reading we find the James pleading with an audience of lukewarm Christians. Like all of us who must cope with the problems that life throws at us, they obviously need help and so James takes the teachings of Jesus and distills them down to the basics.
He begins with the most important: prayer. Are you suffering? Pray for relief, James tells them. Are you in good spirits? Offer a prayer of praise and thanksgiving. Are you sick, in need of healing? Have the Church pray with you and for you, anointing you in the name of the Lord. Do you need forgiveness? Confess your sins and pray for spiritual healing.
|"...they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord..."|
Pray for each other, James goes on to tell us. And calling to mind the wondrous deeds of the prophet Elijah, he reminds us that “The fervent prayer of the righteous person is very powerful” [Jas 5:16].
|Elijah: the power of prayer|
We’re not to condemn people; rather we’re to help them to salvation. Pope Francis recently touched on this when he instructed us to stay clear of those who act as if they are the guardians of divine salvation. These are the scholars of the law who think that if you obey all the commandments, you will be saved. But in doing so, they neglect the greatest of the commandments: the commandment to love.
James addresses this by offering us a wonderful gift:
“…whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” [Jas 5:20].This is a good thing to remember, brothers and sisters. It’s the fulfillment of that great commandment: to love God with all my being and to love my neighbor as myself. Bringing others to God’s Love is simply obedience, a response to salvation which I have done nothing to deserve.
And that’s something we often forget. You and I do not deserve salvation. We can’t get to heaven on our own. Salvation is a gift. But do we really believe this? It demands trust, doesn’t it? The kind of childlike trust Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel passage. We must learn how to receive the Kingdom of God as a gift. The childlike, you see, recognize that everything is a gift, everything is a grace. And they accept their smallness.
Just consider how small we are when compared to God’s greatness and the vastness of His creation. And it’s because we can acknowledge this smallness that we are open to receive God’s love.
But to receive God's love, His grace, we must listen and contemplate. We must pray. And then we must act, loving as God loves.