“The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” (James 5:16)
In today’s Gospel passage, people were bringing children to Jesus and the disciples tried to stop them. But when Jesus saw it, he rebuked the disciples for their ignorance. Children are often considered a nuisance when they are around but even though they are so easily distracted, there is something they possess that is precious and powerful; it is their inner purity.
Jesus warned us that those who destroy the innocence of children are better off drowned in the sea with a millstone around their necks. (Cf. Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42 & Luke 18:21)
When a person with a clean heart prays, his prayer is very loud. As James puts it, “the prayer of the righteous man has great power in its effects.”
In fact, as Jesus said: “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” This means we all are encouraged to have child-like (innocent, uncontaminated, humble, simple, joyful) hearts. James gives us the example of Elijah saying he was a man like us yet his prayer affected the entire cosmos. We have no excuse for remaining in our sinfulness.
Is it the case that God only answers the righteous? No. However, note that in Ephesians 6, Paul mentions righteousness as one of the weapons of our warfare. Make efforts to be righteous, make efforts to be childlike in your approach to the things of God. Do not despise God or act as though you don’t need him.
St. James talks about two sacraments of the church; the anointing of the sick and confession. These are two sacraments of healing and it takes faith on our part to enjoy their benefits. When a priest anoints you sacramentally, your sins will be forgiven and you will be healed (if its God’s will). When you confess your sins to a priest, you are confessing to Jesus Christ and God who alone has the power to forgive, will forgive you and heal you of the wounds your sins have inflicted on your original innocence.
Some will say: “Why tell my sins to a priest? Can’t I just ask God directly for forgiveness?” Sure, you can but if you are really serious about stopping the sin, you have to say it out, you have to journey with a priest, a spiritual director. Sin, just like sickness needs a doctor. Self-medication is never advisable. If God has provided us with the Sacrament of Penance, let us use it. Do not despise confession. Try to examine your conscience today and go for confession. Begin afresh in your journey with God.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, make me a child again and determined to grow in righteousness. Amen.
Bible Study: James 5:13-20, Ps. 141:1-3,8, Mark 10:13-16).