World Day of the Sick - Message of Pope Francis

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 

?Youreceived without payment; give without payment? (Mt 10:8). Theseare the words spoken by Jesus when sending forth his apostles to spread theGospel, so that his Kingdom might grow through acts of gratuitous love.

 

Onthe XXVII World Day of the Sick, to be solemnly celebrated on 11 February 2019in Calcutta, India, the Church ? as a Mother to all her children, especiallythe infirm ? reminds us that generous gestures like that of the Good Samaritanare the most credible means of evangelization. Caring for the sick requiresprofessionalism, tenderness, straightforward and simple gestures freely given,like a caress that makes others feel loved.

 

Life is a gift from God. Saint Paul asks: ?What do you have that you did notreceive?? (1 Cor 4:7). Precisely because it is a gift, human lifecannot be reduced to a personal possession or private property, especially inthe light of medical and biotechnological advances that could tempt us tomanipulate the ?tree of life? (cf. Gen 3:24).

 

Amidtoday?s culture of waste and indifference, I would point out that ?gift? is thecategory best suited to challenging today?s individualism and socialfragmentation, while at the same time promoting new relationships and means ofcooperation between peoples and cultures. Dialogue ? the premise of gift ?creates possibilities for human growth and development capable of breakingthrough established ways of exercising power in society. ?Gift? means more thansimply giving presents: it involves the giving of oneself, and not simply atransfer of property or objects. ?Gift? differs from gift-giving because itentails the free gift of self and the desire to build a relationship. It is theacknowledgement of others, which is the basis of society. ?Gift? is areflection of God?s love, which culminates in the incarnation of the Son andthe outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

 

Eachof us is poor, needy and destitute. When we are born, we require the care ofour parents to survive, and at every stage of life we remain in some waydependent on the help of others. We will always be conscious of ourlimitations, as ?creatures?, before other individuals and situations. A frankacknowledgement of this truth keeps us humble and spurs us to practicesolidarity as an essential virtue in life.

 

Suchan acknowledgement leads us to act responsibly to promote a good that is bothpersonal and communal. Only if we see ourselves, not as a world apart, but in afraternal relationship with others, can we develop a social practice ofsolidarity aimed at the common good. We should not be afraid to regardourselves as needy or reliant on others, because individually and by our ownefforts we cannot overcome our limitations. So we should not fear, then, toacknowledge those limitations, for God himself, in Jesus, has humbly stoopeddown to us (cf. Phil 2:8) and continues to do so; in ourpoverty, he comes to our aid and grants us gifts beyond our imagining.

 

Inlight of the solemn celebration in India, I would like to recall, with joy andadmiration, the figure of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta ? a model of charitywho made visible God?s love for the poor and sick. As I noted at hercanonization, ?Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generousdispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through herwelcome and defence of human life, of those unborn and those abandoned and discarded?She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of theroad, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard beforethe powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for thecrime ? the crimes! ? of poverty they created. For Mother Teresa, mercy was the?salt? which gave flavour to her work; it was the ?light? that shone in thedarkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty andsuffering. Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for ustoday an eloquent witness to God?s closeness to the poorest of the poor? (Homily, 4 September 2016).

 

SaintMother Teresa helps us understand that our only criterion of action must beselfless love for every human being, without distinction of language, culture,ethnicity or religion. Her example continues to guide us by opening up horizonsof joy and hope for all those in need of understanding and tender love, andespecially for those who suffer.

 

Generosityinspires and sustains the work of the many volunteers who are so important inhealth care and who eloquently embody the spirituality of the Good Samaritan. Iexpress my gratitude and offer my encouragement to all those associations ofvolunteers committed to the transport and assistance of patients, and all thosethat organize the donation of blood, tissues and organs. One particular area inwhich your presence expresses the Church?s care and concern is that of advocacyfor the rights of the sick, especially those affected by pathologies requiringspecial assistance. I would also mention the many efforts made to raiseawareness and encourage prevention. Your volunteer work in medical facilitiesand in homes, which ranges from providing health care to offering spiritualsupport, is of primary importance. Countless persons who are ill, alone,elderly or frail in mind or body benefit from these services. I urge you tocontinue to be a sign of the Church?s presence in a secularized world. Avolunteer is a good friend with whom one can share personal thoughts andemotions; by their patient listening, volunteers make it possible for the sickto pass from being passive recipients of care to being active participants in arelationship that can restore hope and inspire openness to further treatment.Volunteer work passes on values, behaviours and ways of living born of a deepdesire to be generous. It is also a means of making health care more humane.

 

Aspirit of generosity ought especially to inspire Catholic healthcareinstitutions, whether in the more developed or the poorer areas of our world,since they carry out their activity in the light of the Gospel. Catholicfacilities are called to give an example of self-giving, generosity andsolidarity in response to the mentality of profit at any price, of giving forthe sake of getting, and of exploitation over concern for people.

 

Iurge everyone, at every level, to promote the culture of generosity and ofgift, which is indispensable for overcoming the culture of profit and waste. Catholichealthcare institutions must not fall into the trap of simply running abusiness; they must be concerned with personal care more than profit. We knowthat health is relational, dependent on interaction with others, and requiringtrust, friendship and solidarity. It is a treasure that can be enjoyed fullyonly when it is shared. The joy of generous giving is a barometer of the healthof a Christian.

 

Ientrust all of you to Mary, Salus Infirmorum. May she help us toshare the gifts we have received in the spirit of dialogue and mutualacceptance, to live as brothers and sisters attentive to each other?s needs, togive from a generous heart, and to learn the joy of selfless service to others.With great affection, I assure you of my closeness in prayer, and to all Icordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

 

Vatican City, 25 November 2018

Solemnityof our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

 

Francis

 

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