Each year the Church designates Feb. 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, as the World Day of Prayer for the Sick. This commemoration gives us an opportunity to reflect upon, pray for and encourage our brothers and sisters who are ill. The Church’s concern for the sick has been present since its earliest days as an outgrowth of the healing ministry of Jesus. The Gospels are replete with stories of the encounters that Christ had with the sick. We often hear of the healing ministry that was so much a part of His life among us.
All of us have known the importance of a visit and words of encouragement to a relative or friend who is sick. In hospitals, nursing homes and the family homes of the sick, a visit, a prayer, a note of encouragement is always appreciated. Such thoughtful gestures lift the spirits of the sick person and show our care and compassion. Those who have experienced serious illness — temporary, chronic or terminal — have often told me that the goodness and concern of others helped them through the long days and longer nights of hospitalizations or home confinements.
Through this column, I wish to assure all who are experiencing sickness of my compassionate concern and prayer. You are very important to the Church. As I pray for you, I hope you also will pray for us. Make the intention of joining your own suffering to the suffering of Christ. Since the prayers of the sick are very powerful, I ask you to pray for the strengthening of family life in our diocese; for the protection of all human life from the first moment of conception to the moment of natural death; for an increase of vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate and consecrated life; and for our young people that they will make good choices as they move into the future.
In his message for this day, Pope Benedict XVI reminded all of us, and in a special way the young, to learn to see and meet Jesus in the Eucharist, where He is present in a real way for us, to the point of making Himself food for our journey, but know how to recognize and serve Him also in the poor, in the sick, in our brothers and sisters who are suffering and in difficulty, who need your help. The Pope encouraged all young people, both sick and healthy, to build bridges of love and solidarity so that nobody feels alone but rather near to God and part of the great family of His children.
I also want to thank all who take care of the sick, doctors, nurses, health care workers of all kinds and family members. You make a great contribution to our community. When you treat the ill with compassion, Pope Benedict reminds us that “you should always be able to see the Face of faces, that of Christ.”
It is certainly fitting that a feast of the Blessed Mother is chosen as a day of prayer for the sick. We invoke our Blessed Mother as Health of the Sick and Consoler of the Suffering. Mary experienced the mystery of suffering in her life. At the foot of the cross her Son, Jesus, gave her to us as our mother. Her maternal compassion for her Son as He suffered is now the maternal compassion for each of His disciples who bears the cross of illness and daily suffering.
In the 25th chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, there is a stark reminder of the importance of reaching out to the sick: “For I was ill and you cared for me” (Mt. 25:36). St. Matthew reminds us that in the final judgment, God Himself will be the one who will recognize our good actions or punish our lack of attention to the person in need. We would all benefit from taking a few moments to reread this chapter.
If you have an intention you would like me to remember in prayer, please forward it to me at 240 E. Onondaga St.,
Syracuse, N.Y. 13201