February 6, 2013
On February 11, the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Church marks the Twenty-first World Day of the Sick. This is a privileged time of prayer for those burdened by physical, emotional and psychological afflictions, a time to assure all who are hurting that they are not alone.
I think of those who suffer diabetes. Regular trips for dialysis treatments, daily medications, and restricted diets are all part and parcel of daily living for the person who suffers with sugar. Diabetes isn’t picky about the age of its victims either. It’s so inspiring to see all those who have diabetes to go about their lives in such a routine way while coping with such a heavy burden.
I think, too, of all those who suffer the horrible disease of cancer. I’m sure that from your own personal experience, you have met women and men, again—no matter the age—who heroically tackle the cancers that have invaded their bodies. Treatments to rid the body of this toxic, dreaded visitor bring with them such terrible side effects that are bravely endured by the victims. What a remarkable witness of courage and perseverance!
Then, there are those who suffer that debilitating disease of arthritis. Realizing that one is no longer able to physically accomplish certain feats that once were considered routine, can lead to a very discouraging and depressing state of mind, particularly when the medication seems to have minimal effects. Yet, in the face of such trials, we see arthritis sufferers reaching out, through their pain, to serve others.
Many in our society, indeed within our families, suffer emotional and psychological distress. When one is hurting badly and no medication relieves the pain, a sense of desperation and frustration can surface. Those who suffer these wounds are often misunderstood, ridiculed or written off by society. These are but a few examples of a multitude of maladies suffered by our sisters and brothers.
Pope Benedict XVI asks those who suffer to understand their pain from a perspective of faith: “It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love” (Spe Salvi,37).
As we approach the Season of Lent, we are particularly aware of our need to journey with the suffering Christ enroute to the glory of the Resurrection. This is also an apt occasion to extend words of deep gratitude to all those in the health care ministry. So many of our neighbors give much of their time and energy as volunteers in our local Fire Departments, EMT’S and other personnel on rescue squads, as well as the medical staffs in our nursing homes and hospitals.
Let us ask the Lord to open our eyes and hearts to those who suffer around us, so that our compassion and care reflects that of the Divine Physician. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own affairs that we forget or neglect those who are hurting in our midst. Time spent with those who are hurting is the most productive thing we can do with our time. After all, isn’t that where Jesus spent most of His time?As the Holy Father recently remarked, “Each one of us can be a good Samaritan for others.” Let us take the time to notice, approach and give of ourselves. Something as simple as a smile and gentle word can be just what the doctor ordered.