Four Final Thoughts – James 5:13-20

Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. Elijah was a human being like us, yet he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain upon the land. Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the earth produced its fruit. My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.  

As James wraps up his letter of instruction, he points out some personal and corporate practices that we need to adhere to.  

Are you suffering? Pray! Are you happy? Sing about it! Are you sick? Call the presbyters!

“This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to indeed by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of the Lord. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1695; cf. Mk 6:13; Jas 5:14-15.”

We notice that this anointing of the sick is accompanied by the command; confess your sins to one another and pray for one another. Why would James tell us that you may be healed only after mentioning confession and prayer?

Confessing our sins to one another is an act of humility. Although I know God is always with me and sees everything I do. I don’t see Him, see me though. When I confess my sins to the priest [who is Christ’s representative] I see him see me and I am humbled in my spirit. Knowing that I am actually seen and heard, compels me to not want to commit these sins anymore. It is also a great relief to [actually] hear the words of comfort, “Your sins are forgiven” knowing that they indeed are (I John 1:9).

This forgiveness from God leads us to righteousness. If we are to pray for one another, to be “effective” (though this actual translation didn’t use this word) we must be righteous, The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. This is how these three things tie together.

Lastly, we are instructed to bring back a sinner from the error of his way. The error is to stray from the truth. If we are to be able to do this, we must remain in the truth ourselves. Remaining in His truth gives us the grace to lead the sinner back to a life of truth, in the forgiveness and grace of His Church.

So this week, let’s go to confession! To be cleansed from our sin to serve God and our neighbor in true righteousness.


4 Responses

  1. Thank you for your time in putting together a nice site. I just started my own blog and I appreciated your visit and comments.

    I like your commentary on the book of James. You have given me the necessary nudge on doing my own commentary as well– the book of Philiippians — which I will start soon.

    I would agree that confession does bring healing. When a person truly confesses his or her sins, it is an admittal of error, a mission of the mark, a realization that we are not the master of my life. That is humility and contrition. The removal of pride which is the fertile ground of sin. More often than not, it is a period of suffering that allows us the opportunity to truly confess. I think this is why the Apostle Paul considers suffering as a gift from God, an opportunity to grow in the faith.

    Thanks again for your work and God Bless.

  2. As a new Catholic, I can say that the Sacrament of Reconciliation was frightening to me at first. But, every time I go, it brings me an indescribable peace. As a Protestant, I would just say, “Sorry, Lord, I messed up.” And within the hour I’d be committing the same sin again. Now, when I realize that what I am tempted to do will result in having to confess it, I think twice and am able to resist the urge to commit the sin. I am more aware of God’s presence and how my sin grieves Him. Reconciliation puts a face on God and forces me to be truly sorry for what I’ve done.

    “O my God, forgive what I have been, correct what I am, and direct what I shall be.”
    ~Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

  3. Tim,
    Question? How do you bring a sinner to realize their sins? How can we do that? What does Scripture say about this?


  4. Harlequin, this is a detailed question.
    First, the person has to want to realize their sin. Our society excuses way sin and we justify it within our own selves.
    Second, it isn’t us that helps them realize their sin, that is the job of the Holy Spirit. Now the difference is in appearence: if someone kills someone, that sin we can bring before them in the light of God’s word and show them the error of their ways. If it’s a “heart issue” (a sin that we can’t see) we only see parts of the sin, and therefore it’s much harder to confront said person with the light of God’d word.
    Third, this is the seriousness of our call to be “sons and daughters” of God; to live out our faith. This is what James is refering to, we must stay “grounded” in truth, so that the others around us will know what truth is.
    Most importantly, we need to pray for them. Look up these verses; 1 John 5:16, Jude 20, and of course James 5:16.
    I hope that helps.

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