February 11, 2022

Christ the Cornerstone

Live God’s mercy by caring for the sick

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

Today, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, is the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick. Our Church entrusts all the sick and their families to the intercession of Mary, Health of the Infirm. Given our experiences during the past two years, this day of prayer is most welcome. May our Lady’s intercession make the healing power of her son, Jesus, available to all victims of COVID-19 and its variants, and to all who are suffering from any forms of mental, physical or spiritual illness.

In his message for this year’s World Day of the Sick, Pope Francis said:

“We are grateful to the Lord for the progress made over the years in the particular Churches worldwide. Many advances have been made, yet there is still a long way to go in ensuring that all the sick, also those living in places and situations of great poverty and marginalization, receive the health care they need, as well as the pastoral care that can help them experience their sickness in union with the crucified and risen Christ.”

We have made progress, the Holy Father affirms, but much work still remains to be done to make sure that all our sisters and brothers, especially the poor and marginalized, have access to both the professional health care they need and the vibrant pastoral care that Christ demands from his faithful disciples.

The theme chosen for this 30th World Day of the Sick is “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). As Pope Francis reminds us, “Mercy is God’s name par excellence; mercy, understood not as an occasional sentimental feeling but as an ever-present and active force, expresses God’s very nature.”

Visiting the sick is a corporal work of mercy, but all genuine healing requires an expression of compassionate love. Care for those who are ill is an active virtue that transcends all the arts and techniques of health care, as important as these are in modern medicine.

Mercy combines both strength and tenderness, Pope Francis teaches. “For this reason, we can say with wonder and gratitude that God’s mercy embraces both fatherhood and motherhood [Is 49:15]. God cares for us with the strength of a father and the tenderness of a mother; he unceasingly desires to give us new life in the Holy Spirit.”

This new life that is given to the sick through the healing ministry of Jesus reveals him to be the face of Divine Mercy. “We do well to ask ourselves,” the pope says, “why Jesus showed such great concern for the sick, so much so that he made it paramount in the mission of the Apostles, who were sent by the Master to proclaim the Gospel and to heal the sick [Lk 9:2].”

Healing the sick is not something that missionary disciples do “on the side.” It is essential to our baptismal calling, and therefore it should not be something that we simply hand over to professional caregivers. Visiting the sick, praying for all who are suffering from mental, physical or spiritual maladies, supporting health care workers, and even the preventive measures we take (wearing masks, social distancing and, above all, getting vaccinated) are all works of mercy. They are essential to living the Christian life and being disciples of Jesus.

Pope Francis also points to one of the most serious consequences of the pandemic that we have endured during the past two years—the isolation and loneliness of those who are ill.

“How often do the Gospels relate Jesus’ encounters with people suffering from various diseases! How can we forget, in this regard, all those patients who, during this time of pandemic spent the last part of their earthly life in solitude, in an intensive care unit, assisted by generous health care workers, yet far from their loved ones and the most important people in their lives? This helps us to see how important is the presence, at our side, of witnesses to God’s charity, who, following the example of Jesus, the very mercy of the Father, pour the balm of consolation and the wine of hope on the wounds of the sick.”

In the end, the presence of those we love may be the most important ingredient in caring for the sick and dying. We are called to be the face of God’s mercy to those who are ill. May our Blessed Mother Mary inspire us with her compassion and generosity as we strive to be present to all our brothers and sisters who are ill.

Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette, pray for us. Help us to show Christ’s healing mercy to all who are ill or infirm in any way. †

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