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.
– James 5:13-16
Why I Need the Liturgy
by John Fyrqvist
I live in the Catholic Worker community in downtown South Bend, which means I spend a fair bit of time with scraggly homeless men. Though I love them very much, many of these guys haven’t showered in weeks, have an unkempt mane of hair and beard, and wear donated clothes in various stages of disrepair. To the casual observer, it is obvious that they are in need. Our needs are not so obvious.
In true worship we are made whole.
The reading from St. James exhorts us, in all situations, to return to the Liturgy. “Are you suffering?” Pray. “Are you in good spirits?” Sing God’s praises. “Are you sick or sinful?” Come and pray and you will be raised up and forgiven. The need to return to God always and with every experience is universal. Some may wear their need as an addiction, a pathology, or a tattered coat. Many of us hide it under an illustrious pedigree and a polished demeanor. But allof us, in every circumstance, are in need of God’s presence, of returning, as the Psalmist invites, to “bow down before His holy mountain.”
For it is in God’s presence that we are able to truly worship, an act which sets us free. In His presence we are free to shed the idols that distract us. We are free to rightly order our loves, and conform our wounds to those he bore on the cross. Liturgy is the source and summit of our lives for this very reason: in true worship we are made whole. In God’s presence sins are forgiven, wounds are healed, lives are transformed. We hear St. James proclaim, “The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”
Pope Francis recently described the Church as a “field hospital”. He reflected on a Church that is able to heal wounds; a Church defined by its proximity, its nearness to those in need. What is so clear in the reading from James, is that there is no distinction between those in need and those who are whole. Even the one who rejoices is told to enter into God’s presence and sing praise. There is no self-sufficiency in the city of God. All are brought together in worship, in healing, in wholeness. The needs of all, visible and invisible, are laid bare before God’s throne. He alone can bind them. He alone can fill us, and send us forth rejoicing once again in the kingdom where “the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”