Message of His Holiness Pope Francis XXXI World Day of the Sick 11 February 2023
Brothers and sisters, we are rarely prepared for illness. At times, we fail even to admit that we are getting older. Our vulnerability frightens us, and the pervasive culture of efficiency pushes us to sweep it under the carpet, leaving no room for our human frailty. Then, we are left stunned when evil bursts onto the scene and wounds us. Moreover, others might abandon us at such times. Or, in our moments of weakness, we may feel that we should abandon others to avoid becoming a burden.
When loneliness sets in, we can become poisoned by a bitter sense of injustice, as if God himself had abandoned us. Indeed, we may find it hard to remain at peace with the Lord when our relationship with others and ourselves is damaged. The whole Church must measure herself against the example of the Good Samaritan so that she may become a true field hospital. 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. We are all fragile and vulnerable. We need the compassion that knows how to pause, approach, heal, and raise up.
God’s word is always illuminating and timely, not only in what it denounces but also in what it proposes. 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 concerning a new way of moving forward together. Indeed, 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 elements of the inn, the innkeeper, the money, and the promise to remain informed of the situation (cf. Lk 10:34-35) all point to the commitment of healthcare and social workers, family members, and volunteers, through whom good stands up in the face of evil every day, in every part of the world.
The Samaritan calls the innkeeper to “take care of him” (Lk 10:35). Jesus addresses the same call to each of us. He urges us to “go and do likewise” (Lk 10:37). As I noted in Fratelli Tutti, “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 neighbors, lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good” (No. 67). Indeed, “we were created for a fulfillment that can be found only in love. We cannot be indifferent to suffering” (No. 68).
On 11 February 2023, let us turn our thoughts to the Shrine of Lourdes, a prophetic lesson entrusted to the Church for our modern times. It is not only what functions well or those who are productive that matters. Sick people are at the center 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.
To the intercession of Mary, Health of the Sick, I entrust all of you who are ill; you who care for them in your families or through your work, research and volunteer service; and those of you who are committed to weaving personal, ecclesial, and civic bonds of fraternity. To all, I impart my heartfelt blessing.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 10 January 2023