Pope Francis: Caring for the sick is not optional
By Christopher Wells
The healing of St Peter’s mother-in-law is characteristic of Jesus’ miracles of healing, Pope Francis says during his weekly Angelus address. In St Mark’s Gospel, we read that Jesus drew near her, took her hand, and raised her up from the bed where she was suffering from a fever.
The episode also shows the outcome of the healing: the person healed immediately resumes their normal life, thinking immediately of others, and not themselves. This, the Pope says, “is significant, it is a sign of true ‘health’.”
Jesus’ special love for those who suffer
That same evening, after the Sabbath rest, the people of the village come to Jesus, bringing with them the sick and those who are possessed. “From the very beginning” of the Gospel, “Jesus shows His predilection for those who are suffering in body and in spirit,” says Pope Francis, explaining, “It is the predilection of the Father, which Jesus incarnates and manifests in His work and word.”
The Pope notes that the disciples are “eyewitnesses” of the Lord’s miracles. Jesus, however, does not expect them to be mere “spectators,” but instead invites them to share in His mission. “He gives them the power to heal the sick and to cast out demons.”
An integral part of the mission of the Church
This shows that caring for the sick is not an “optional activity” for the Church, but an integral part of her mission; like Jesus, the Church is called “to bring the tenderness of God to suffering humanity.” Pope Francis points to the upcoming “World Day of the Sick,” on 11 February.
The Church’s commitment to caring for the sick, "this essential mission of the Church," is particularly relevant today, the Pope says, when the world is living the experience of the pandemic. Once more, he continues, “the words of Job,” from today’s liturgy, speak to “our human condition, so high in dignity and at the same time so fragile.”
Responding to suffering with love
Jesus, says Pope Francis, does not give an explanation that answers the question of suffering. Instead, He responds “with a presence of love that bows down, takes the one who is suffering by the hand, and lifts them up, just as He did with Peter’s mother-in-law.” Pope Francis continues, “The Son of God does not manifest His Lordship ‘from the top down’ or from a distance; but in closeness, in tenderness, in compassion.”
Rooted in the relationship with the Father
Finally, Pope Francis notes that the day’s readings reminds us that Jesus’ compassion for the suffering is rooted “in His intimate relationship with the Father”: In the Gospel, Jesus rises “very early before dawn,” and goes to a deserted place to pray. It is from prayer, the Pope says, that Jesus “drew the strength to accomplish His ministry, preaching and healing.”
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