World day of the sick

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Both the first reading and the Gospel passage proclaimed this Sunday touch on the subject of sickness and health. It is indeed providential because February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, is the World Day of the Sick instituted by St. John Paul II.

As is customary Pope Francis issued a message that I share with you, bearing especially in mind those in our community who are sick, doctors and nurses, and volunteers at Mt. Sinai Hospital.

“The Church’s service to the sick and those who care for them must continue with renewed vigor, in fidelity to the Lord’s command and following the eloquent example of her Founder and Master.

The theme for this year’s Day of the Sick is provided by the words that Jesus spoke from the Cross to Mary, his Mother, and to John: “Woman, behold your son … Behold your mother.  And from that hour the disciple took her into his home”.

The Lord’s words brilliantly illuminate the mystery of the Cross, which does not represent a hopeless tragedy, but rather the place where Jesus manifests his glory and shows his love to the end. That love in turn was to become the basis and rule for the Christian community and the life of each disciple.

Before all else, Jesus’ words are the source of Mary’s maternal vocation for all humanity.  Mary was to be, in particular, the Mother of her Son’s disciples, caring for them and their journey through life.  As we know, a mother’s care for her son or daughter includes both the material and spiritual dimensions of their upbringing.

The unspeakable pain of the Cross pierces Mary’s soul, but does not paralyze her.  Quite the opposite.  As the Lord’s Mother, a new path of self-giving opens up before her.  On the Cross, Jesus showed his concern for the Church and all humanity, and Mary is called to share in that same concern.  In describing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Acts of the Apostles show that Mary began to carry out this role in the earliest community of the Church.  A role that never ceases.

John, the beloved disciple, is a figure of the Church, the messianic people.  He must acknowledge Mary as his Mother.  In doing so, he is called to take her into his home, to see in her the model of all discipleship, and to contemplate the maternal vocation that Jesus entrusted to her, with all that it entails: a loving Mother who gives birth to children capable of loving as Jesus commands.  That is why Mary’s maternal vocation to care for her children is entrusted to John and to the Church as a whole.  The entire community of disciples is included in Mary’s maternal vocation…

The Church’s maternal vocation to the needy and to the sick has found concrete expression throughout the two thousand years of her history in an impressive series of initiatives on behalf of the sick.  This history of dedication must not be forgotten.  It continues to the present day throughout the world.  In countries where adequate public health care systems exist, the work of Catholic religious congregations and dioceses and their hospitals is aimed not only at providing quality medical care, but also at putting the human person at the center of the healing process, while carrying out scientific research with full respect for life and for Christian moral values.  In countries where health care systems are inadequate or non-existent, the Church seeks to do what she can to improve health, eliminate infant mortality and combat widespread disease.  Everywhere she tries to provide care, even when she is not in a position to offer a cure.  The image of the Church as a “field hospital” that welcomes all those wounded by life is a very concrete reality, for in some parts of the world, missionary and diocesan hospitals are the only institutions providing necessary care to the population.

The memory of this long history of service to the sick is cause for rejoicing on the part of the Christian community, and especially those presently engaged in this ministry.  Yet we must look to the past above all to let it enrich us.  We should learn the lesson it teaches us about the self-sacrificing generosity of many founders of institutes in the service of the infirm, the creativity, prompted by charity, of many initiatives undertaken over the centuries, and the commitment to scientific research as a means of offering innovative and reliable treatments to the sick.  This legacy of the past helps us to build a better future, for example, by shielding Catholic hospitals from the business mentality that is seeking worldwide to turn health care into a profit-making enterprise, which ends up discarding the poor.  Wise organization and charity demand that the sick person be respected in his or her dignity, and constantly kept at the center of the therapeutic process…

The Church’s mission is a response to Jesus’ gift, for she knows that she must bring to the sick the Lord’s own gaze, full of tenderness and compassion.  Health care ministry will always be a necessary and fundamental task, to be carried out with renewed enthusiasm by all, from parish communities to the largest healthcare institutions.  We cannot forget the tender love and perseverance of many families in caring for their chronically sick or severely disabled children, parents and relatives.  The care given within families is an extraordinary witness of love for the human person; it needs to be fittingly acknowledged and supported by suitable policies.  Doctors and nurses, priests, consecrated men and women, volunteers, families and all those who care for the sick, take part in this ecclesial mission.  It is a shared responsibility that enriches the value of the daily service given by each.”

 

PS. If you would like to volunteer to visit patients at Mt. Sinai or homebound parishioners, please contact the parish office.

Fr. Roberto M. Cid