Living "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. This is true, not only for pastoral or health care workers, but for everyone, even for the sick themselves, who can experience this condition from a perspective of faith".
This is the
perspective that Benedict XVI proposes for the 21st World Day of the
Sick, which is traditionally celebrated on February 11, this year at the
Marian shrine of Altötting.
The message for the Day, released
today, focuses on the closing words of the parable of the Good
Samaritan, "Go and do likewise " (Lk 10, 37). These words, writes the
Pope, with which " the Lord also indicates the attitude that each of his
disciples should have towards others, especially those in need."
day " represents for the sick, for health care workers, for the faithful
and for all people of goodwill "a privileged time of prayer, of
sharing, of offering one's sufferings for the good of the Church, and a
call for all to recognize in the features of their suffering brothers
and sisters the Holy Face of Christ, who, by suffering, dying and rising
has brought about the salvation of mankind" (John Paul II, Letter for
the Institution of the World Day of the Sick, 13 May 1992, 3)".
"The Year of Faith which we are celebrating is a fitting
occasion for intensifying the service of charity in our ecclesial
communities, so that each one of us can be a good Samaritan for others,
for those close to us. Here I would like to recall the innumerable
figures in the history of the Church who helped the sick to appreciate
the human and spiritual value of their suffering, so that they might
serve as an example and an encouragement. Saint Thérèse of the Child
Jesus and the Holy Face, "an expert in the scientia amoris" (Novo Millennio Ineunte,
42), was able to experience "in deep union with the Passion of Jesus"
the illness that brought her "to death through great suffering" (Address at General Audience,
6 April 2011). The Venerable Luigi Novarese, who still lives in the
memory of many, throughout his ministry realized the special importance
of praying for and with the sick and suffering, and he would often
accompany them to Marian shrines, especially to the Grotto of Lourdes.
Raoul Follereau, moved by love of neighbour, dedicated his life to
caring for people afflicted by Hansen's disease, even at the world's
farthest reaches, promoting, among other initiatives, World Leprosy Day.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta would always begin her day with an encounter
with Jesus in the Eucharist and then she would go out into the streets,
rosary in hand, to find and serve the Lord in the sick, especially in
those "unwanted, unloved, uncared for". Saint Anna Schäffer of
Mindelstetten, too, was able to unite in an exemplary way her sufferings
to those of Christ: "her sick-bed became her cloister cell and her
suffering a missionary service. Strengthened by daily communion, she
became an untiring intercessor in prayer and a mirror of God's love for
the many who sought her counsel" (Canonization Homily, 21
October 2012). In the Gospel the Blessed Virgin Mary stands out as one
who follows her suffering Son to the supreme sacrifice on Golgotha. She
does not lose hope in God's victory over evil, pain and death, and she
knows how to accept in one embrace of faith and love, the Son of God who
was born in the stable of Bethlehem and died on the Cross. Her
steadfast trust in the power of God was illuminated by Christ's
resurrection, which offers hope to the suffering and renews the
certainty of the Lord's closeness and consolation".
"Lastly, I would like to offer a word of warm gratitude and
encouragement to Catholic health care institutions and to civil society,
to Dioceses and Christian communities, to religious congregations
engaged in the pastoral care of the sick, to health care workers'
associations and to volunteers. 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" (Christifideles Laici, 38)".