Sickness as human condition

“Pope Francis offers a message of hope and comfort to those who are struggling with death and sickness, urging us to approach these difficult situations with courage and empathy“

The World Day of the Sick is an annual event observed by the Catholic Church to raise awareness and encourage various activities such as prayer, sharing, and offering personal suffering for the betterment of the Church.

Its purpose is to encourage prayer, sharing, and the offering of one’s own suffering for the good of the Church.

It also serves as a reminder to view sick individuals as the face of Christ.

The Day was established on May 13, 1992 by Pope John Paul II and is celebrated on February 11, which coincides with the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes.

However, it is not considered a liturgical celebration.

It is noteworthy that Pope John Paul II created this Day just one year after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a condition that was not confirmed until 2001.

The pope had written extensively about the value of suffering and believed it could be a redemptive and salvific process through Christ, as he expressed in his apostolic letter, Salvfiici Dolores.

In 2005, the World Day of the Sick had a special significance since the ailing pope later died on April 2 of that year. Many people had gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Rome to pray for him as he lay dying.

Since 1992, The World Day of the Sick has been commemorated which continues to this day.

On this year’s occasion, we highlight salient portions of Pope Francis’ message entitled “Take care of him – Compassion as a synodal exercise of healing.”

The Holy Father starts off his homily by emphasizing that illness is part of the human condition.

Yet, according to him, if illness is experienced in isolation and abandonment, unaccompanied by care and compassion, it can become inhumane.

He invites all of us to reflect on the fact that it is especially through the experience of vulnerability and illness that we can learn to walk together according to the style of God, which is closeness, compassion, and tenderness.

Indeed, as Francis points out, we are rarely prepared for illness. Oftentimes, we fail even to admit that we are getting older.

Our fear of being vulnerable is overwhelming, and our societal obsession with efficiency compels us to ignore it altogether, denying our humanity.

When we are struck by evil, we are often shocked and left without support from others.

Like Jesus in the desert, as narrated in tomorrow’s gospel for the first Sunday of Lent, we are tempted by bread, power, and pride to deny our sickness and the human condition.

Indeed, as I write this I am waiting for the results of a thyroid biopsy that could show that cancer has spread to this organ in my body. I am hopeful for the results but expect the worst.

In our own moments of weakness, we may feel it necessary to isolate ourselves to avoid being a burden to others.

This leads to loneliness, which can breed bitterness and a sense of abandonment by God.

It is difficult to maintain a peaceful relationship with God when we are at odds with ourselves and others. Therefore, it is essential that the Church, even in times of illness, models itself after the Good Samaritan in the Gospel, serving as a “field hospital” that cares for others in their time of need.

We are all vulnerable and fragile, requiring compassion that is patient, healing, and uplifting. The plight of the sick should be a wake-up call to those who are indifferent and encourage them to slow down and care for their brothers and sisters.

The World Day of the Sick calls for prayer and closeness toward those who suffer. Yet it also aims to raise the awareness of God’s people, healthcare institutions, and civil society with regard to a new way of moving forward together.

One of the most powerful examples of God’s care for the sick and suffering is the story of Jesus and his healing ministry.

In the Gospels, we read about Jesus healing people of all kinds of afflictions, from blindness and paralysis to leprosy and mental illness. Jesus saw the pain and suffering of these individuals and was moved with compassion to help them.

He didn’t just heal their physical bodies, but he also brought them peace and hope for a better future.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to continue this healing ministry in our own lives.

We can do this by visiting the sick, comforting the afflicted, and advocating for those who are suffering. We can also pray for those who are in pain, asking God to bring them comfort and healing.

Of course, we know that not everyone who is sick or suffering will be healed in this life.

We live in a fallen world, where sickness and death are a part of the human experience. However, we can still trust in the love and care of God, knowing that he is with us even in our darkest moments.

We can find hope in the promise of eternal life, where there will be no more pain or suffering.

Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has motivated Christians to offer aid and comfort to the sick and dying, and to recognize the presence of God in their suffering.

He offers a message of hope and comfort to those who are struggling with death and sickness, urging us to approach these difficult situations with courage and empathy.

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