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February 2, 2021

Fraternal solidarity with the sick

By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI

The theme of Pope Francis’ message for the 29th World Day of the Sick on February 11 is: You have but one teacher and you are all brothers (Mt 23:8).

It is “drawn from the Gospel passage in which Jesus criticises the hypocrisy of those who fail to practise what they preach (cf Mt 23:1–12). When our faith is reduced to empty words, unconcerned with the lives and needs of others, the creed we profess proves inconsistent with the life we lead. The danger is real. That is why Jesus uses strong language about the peril of falling into self-idolatry…

“He asks us to stop and listen, to establish a direct and personal relationship with others, to feel empathy and compassion, and to let their suffering become our own as we seek to serve them (cf. Lk 10:30–35). The experience of sickness makes us realise our own vulnerability and our innate need of others. It makes us feel all the more clearly that we are creatures dependent on God…

“Sickness always has more than one face: it has the face of all the sick, but also those who feel ignored, excluded and prey to social injustices that deny their fundamental rights (cf Fratelli Tutti, 22). The current pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in our healthcare systems and exposed inefficiencies in the care of the sick. Elderly, weak, and vulnerable people are not always granted access to care, or in an equitable manner…

“Yet the pandemic has also highlighted the dedication and generosity of healthcare personnel, volunteers, support staff, priests, men, and women religious, all of whom have helped, treated, comforted, and served so many of the sick and their families with professionalism, self-giving, responsibility and love of neighbour. A silent multitude of men and women, they chose not to look the other way but to share the suffering of patients, whom they saw as neighbours and members of our one human family.”

In today’s gospel, Mark 1: 29–39, one can’t help but be inspired by Simon’s mother-in-law, who, when Jesus healed her of her fever, taking her by her hand and helping her up, the first thing she did was to “wait on them”.

We may not realise it, but the Lord performs miracles in our lives on a daily basis, quietly, without any fanfare, and He does this so that we can serve in His vineyard.

There is too much selfishness and individualism in our world. Just as we pray to God whenever we fall ill, let us remember in prayer all those who are ill, and go one step further and stand in solidarity with them, serving them in whatever way we can.

I remember His Grace visiting me in hospital the day after I was struck down by an ischemic stroke. The doctor came into the room and asked me to try to lift my left leg. It was only then that I realised that I was unable to do so. Talk about panic!

I can only say that it was my prayers and that of many in my family and in the wider community, as well as the skills of the doctors, and most of all, God’s grace, that I was healed.

And even though my left side has remained weak, I thank God each day for His healing mercies. As Pope Francis has said: “Jesus saves, Jesus cures, Jesus heals”.

In his message this year, the Holy Father says: “…Jesus heals not by magic but as the result of an encounter, an interpersonal relationship, in which God’s gift finds a response in the faith of those who accept it. As Jesus often repeats: ‘Your faith has saved you’”.

We cannot only depend on others to pray for our recovery when we are sick, we must pray for ourselves.

Archbishop Jason Gordon reminds us that “Prayer for the Christian is like water for fish…to pray is to realise the truth that we are in God: in Him we live and move and have our being” (January 13, 2019, CN).

And today’s gospel tells us that Jesus also prayed. After healing many, He got up before dawn, left the house of Simon and Andrew, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there.

Remember, “we are called to be merciful like the Father and to love in particular our frail, infirm and suffering brothers and sisters (cf Jn 13:34–35)” (Pope Francis).

Our Lady, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Infirm, pray for us.


Each human person is an end in himself or herself, and never simply a means to be valued only for his or her usefulness. Persons are created to live together in families, communities and societies, where all are equal in dignity. (6)

Pope Francis, World Day of Peace 2021

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