February 8, 2015
The ministry of Jesus to the sick is central to the life of the church. Saint John Paul II in announcing this day stated: “I consider most appropriate, indeed, the bestowal upon the entire ecclesial community of an initiative which, as already practiced in some nations and regions, has brought forth precious pastoral fruit.” Each year this observance occurs on Feb 11, the memorial of our Lady of Lourdes. This day highlights the healing ministry of the Church. It reminds us that service to the sick and suffering cannot be neglected. It recognizes the great efforts of doctors, nurses, health care institutions and pastoral care givers to restore health to those afflicted with illnesses and diseases. “And Jesus went forth healing the blind, the lame, the crippled, those afflicted with pain and illness.”
The difficult situation created by sickness that bows down both body and soul is the painful experience of human beings. Sickness makes human beings conscious of their finiteness and dependence and vividly reminds them of the often forgotten law that all human beings must die (# 1500, Pastoral Care of the Sick # 1). But "illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God" (# 1501). Moreover "suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus" (# 1521).
With the new Pastoral Care of the Sick and the Catechism of the Catholic Church once again the Sacraments of the Sick and Dying can make people aware of the value and dignity of Jesus Christ's Paschal Mystery and healing in the Church. A Church which is not interested in healing and in the total health of the whole human person and of the human community at large is not the Church of Christ. A Church which abandons those who, by certain of the world's standards, are no longer of practical use is not the Church of Christ. The Church which cares for and anoints the sick is the Church of Christ who shared in our human nature to heal the sick and save all humankind.
The sick persons always beg us to listen to them and be there for them. Pain is always real. When a person is in pain, there is no denying his or her discomfort. A person's pain and response to that pain are deeply personal. Suffering is made more tolerable through friendship and through caring. The minister who cares is the one who has it straight that being present to another is what really matters, especially in times of pain, loss, stress and dying. To share life's struggle with another, to articulate the prayer that emanates from the groaning of the Spirit within, to celebrate the sacrament of the dying and rising of the Lord in the concrete realities of people's lives-all this makes a difference. In dealing with suffering and death, we need a hunger for life, a thirst for healing. This hunger and thirst somehow rises from a relationship with the Risen Lord that is always becoming more conscious, more active and more alive, because only Jesus Christ can heal and make sense out of suffering. As a member of the caring community, we would not forget the words of St. Paul: "If one member suffers, all suffer together with it" (1Cor 12:26). And again: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep" (Rom 12: 15).