VATICAN CITY — Ahead of the World Day of the Sick, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his closeness to those with illnesses and reaffirmed that Jesus Christ’s sufferings give meaning to their own.
“You are not alone, separated, abandoned or useless. You have been called by Christ and are his living and transparent image,” said the Pope, quoting Pope Paul VI’s words from the Second Vatican Council.
The 21st World Day of the Sick will be celebrated Feb. 11 on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Pope Benedict released his message for the day on Jan. 8.
The Pope said the observance is a day for the sick, health-care workers and the faithful to engage in prayer, to offer one’s sufferings “for the good of the Church” and to recognize in those who suffer “the Holy Face of Christ, who, by suffering, dying and rising, has brought about the salvation of mankind.”
The Pope used the Parable of the Good Samaritan as a point of reflection. Jesus’ parable “helps us to understand the deep love of God for every human being, especially those afflicted by sickness or pain.”
The parable recounts how the Good Samaritan cared for a man who had been injured in an attack by thieves. The Pope said its concluding words, “Go and do likewise,” show how his disciples should behave towards others, especially those in need.
“We need to draw from the infinite love of God, through an intense relationship with him in prayer, the strength to live day by day with concrete concern, like that of the Good Samaritan, for those suffering in body and spirit who ask for our help, whether or not we know them and however poor they may be.”
Pope Benedict said this is true for everyone: pastoral workers, health-care workers and the sick themselves.
He cited his 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi, which said healing is found not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering, but, rather, by accepting it and “finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.”
The Pope noted that many Church Fathers saw Jesus in the Good Samaritan. In the man who fell among thieves and was injured, they saw the wounded and disoriented humanity of sinful Adam.
Jesus, he said, “does not jealously guard his equality with God, but, filled with compassion, he looks into the abyss of human suffering so as to pour out the oil of consolation and the wine of hope.”
Pope Benedict encouraged Catholic health-care workers and institutions, dioceses, religious congregations and all those involved in the pastoral care of the sick.
“May all realize ever more fully that ‘the Church today lives a fundamental aspect of her mission in lovingly and generously accepting every human being, especially those who are weak and sick,’” he said.
The World Day of the Sick will be observed at the Marian shrine of Altötting in Germany. The Pope asked that the Virgin Mary help health-care workers and “always accompany those who suffer in their search for comfort and firm hope.”