CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee
By Leela Ramdeen
Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
On Tuesday, February 4, the world will observe World Cancer Day and the Catholic Church will mark the 28th World Day of the Sick on Tuesday, February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
As a cancer and stroke survivor, the theme of this year’s observance resonates with me. The theme is: Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest, taken from Matthew’s gospel (11:28). This day was instituted by St Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1992 and began in 1993.
In his first message, St Pope John Paul II said that this day is “a special occasion for growth, with an attitude of listening, reflection, and effective commitment in the face of the great mystery of pain and illness. This day… for all believers seeks to be ‘a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering for the good of the Church and of reminding everyone to see in his sick brother or sister the face of Christ who, by suffering, dying and rising, achieved the salvation of mankind’ ” ( #3, Letter Instituting the World Day of the Sick, May 13, 1992).
In his message this year, Pope Francis is urging the human warmth and personalised approach of Christ, the Good Samaritan, in healthcare professionals, workers and volunteers.
To those who are sick he says: “Christ did not give us prescriptions, but through his passion, death and resurrection he frees us from the grip of evil. In your experience of illness, you certainly need a place to find rest. The Church desires to become more and more the ‘inn’ of the Good Samaritan who is Christ (cf Lk 10:34), that is, a home where you can encounter his grace, which finds expression in closeness, acceptance and relief”
He notes that sometimes human warmth is lacking in our approach to those suffering incurable and chronic diseases, psychological diseases, situations calling for rehabilitation or palliative care, numerous forms of disability, children’s or geriatric diseases. In addition to therapy and support, he says, they expect care and attention: “At the side of every sick person, there is also a family, which itself suffers and is in need of support and comfort.”
Health care workers
He sends a strong pro-life message to healthcare professionals: “…let us always remember that diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic treatments, research, care and rehabilitation are always in the service of the sick person; indeed the noun‘person’ takes priority over the adjective ‘sick’. In your work, may you always strive to promote the dignity and life of each person, and reject any compromise in the direction of euthanasia, assisted suicide or suppression of life, even in the case of terminal illness…
“Let us remember that life is sacred and belongs to God; hence it is inviolable and no one can claim the right to dispose of it freely (cf Donum Vitae, 5; Evangelium Vitae, 29–53). Life must be welcomed, protected, respected and served from its beginning to its end: both human reason and faith in God, the author of life, require this. In some cases, conscientious objection becomes a necessary decision if you are to be consistent with your ‘yes’ to life and to the human person….”
He says that “tragically” during wars and violent conflicts, healthcare professionals and facilities are attacked, and in some areas, political authorities attempt to manipulate medical care for their own advantage, thus restricting the medical profession’s legitimate autonomy. He thinks also of those across the world who have “no access to medical care because they live in poverty” and urges “healthcare institutions and government leaders not to neglect social justice out of a preoccupation for financial concerns.”
He hopes that “by joining the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, efforts will be made to cooperate in ensuring that everyone has access to suitable treatments for preserving and restoring their health.”
He thanks all those volunteers who serve the sick, often compensating for structural shortcomings, while reflecting the image of Christ, the Good Samaritan, by their acts of tender love and closeness.
Let us be a healing presence to all.
A church that does not provoke any crisis, preach a gospel that does not unsettle, proclaim a word of God that does not get under anyone’s skin or a word of God that does not touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed: what kind of gospel is that?
St Óscar Romero