World Day of Sick 11 February
Pope Francis released his message for the 31th World Day of the Sick, and urged Catholics to heed the example of the Good Samaritan showing compassion and taking care of the sick in a world that discards the most vulnerable.
As the Church journeys along the synodal path, Pope Francis is inviting the faithful 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”. He makes the call in his Message for the 31st World Day of the Sick.
The Catholic Church marks the annual day on 11 February, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The theme of this year’s observance is “Take care of him: Compassion as a synodal exercise of healing”, drawn from the Gospel of Luke on the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Illness experienced in isolation is inhumane
In his message, Pope Francis highlights compassion and care for the sick “as a synodal exercise of healing”, to which God calls us, noting that if illness is part of our human condition, when “experienced in isolation and abandonment, unaccompanied by care and compassion, it can become inhumane”.
“Experiences of bewilderment, sickness, and weakness are part of the human journey. Far from excluding us from God’s people, they bring us to the centre of the Lord’s attention, for He is our Father and does not want to lose even one of his children along the way.”
The message of fraternity of the Good Samaritan
The “condition of loneliness and abandonment” of the man beaten and robbed by bandits in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, is the same experienced today by “too many of our brothers and sisters” who “are left at a time when they most need help”, the Pope writes. Indeed, he says, “There is a profound link between this parable of Jesus and the many ways in which fraternity is denied in today’s world”, in which it is no longer easy “to distinguish the assaults on human life and dignity that arise from natural causes from those caused by injustice and violence”.
The Good Samaritan tells us a different story: that of a man, “a scorned foreigner”, who “is moved with compassion and takes care of that stranger on the road, treating him as a brother. In doing so, without even thinking about it - says the Pope - he makes a difference, he makes the world more fraternal”.
We are all fragile and vulnerable
In a world dominated by “the pervasive culture of efficiency” that pushes us to sweep our vulnerability under the carpet, “leaving no room for our human frailty”, the Church is therefore called to “measure herself against the Gospel example of the Good Samaritan, in order that she may become a true ‘field hospital’, for her mission is manifested in acts of care, particularly in the historical circumstances of our time”.
“We are all fragile and vulnerable, and need that compassion which knows how to pause, approach, heal, and raise up. Thus, the plight of the sick is a call that cuts through indifference and slows the pace of those who go on their way as if they had no sisters and brothers.”
Moving forward together
While the World Day of the Sick calls for prayer and closeness towards those who suffer - continues the message - 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”. “Indeed – the Pope writes - the conclusion of the Parable of the Good Samaritan suggests how the exercise of fraternity, which began as a face-to-face encounter, can be expanded into organized care”.
The right to basic and decent healthcare
In this regard, Pope Francis once again draws attention to the urgent need for “strategies and resources in order to guarantee each person’s fundamental right to basic and decent healthcare”, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed “the structural limits of existing public welfare systems”, while “straining the great networks of expertise and solidarity” .
“The Samaritan calls the innkeeper to “take care of him” (Lk 10:35). Jesus addresses the same call to each of us. He exhorts us to “go and do likewise” (Lk 10:37). (…) “The parable shows us how a community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject the creation of a society of exclusion, and act instead as neighbours, lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good” (Fratelli Tutti No. 67).”
Leaving no one behind
Bringing his message to a close, Pope Francis again reiterates that the sick ”are at the centre of God’s people, and the Church advances together with them as a sign of a humanity in which everyone is precious and no one should be discarded or left behind”.
The Pope wrapped up the message by entrusting all the sick, those who care for them in their families, researchers and volunteers, and those “who are committed to weaving personal, ecclesial, and civic bonds of fraternity” to the intercession of Mary, Health of the infirm.