“Doctors and nurses and social workers and all kinds of other professionals and support staff have their roles to play. So do we.”
Our Lenten Journey through the Corporal Works of Mercy continues.
‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
“Of the many with whom Jesus interacted as he walked the dusty footpaths of Galilee, there were none more numerous or closer to his heart than the sick. Remember some of them. In a recent Sunday gospel, Peter’s mother-in-law, and the huge crowd that gathered around the house where she lay in bed. The woman with the hemorrhage is another one. Jairus’ daughter, the group afflicted with leprosy, the man born blind, and the man who was deaf and had a speech impediment are others that come to mind. Encountering Jesus, being cared for by him, radically transformed their lives.
Our baptism calls and empowers us to be like Jesus. The Church, guided by the Spirit, continues in our own time and place the work he has begun. An important part of our mission is care for the sick. Doctors and nurses and social workers and all kinds of other professionals and support staff have their roles to play. So do we.
What happens when we get sick? We may have a fever, a cough, chills, upset stomach. We’re sleepy. Symptoms vary from mild to serious. Some illnesses linger for a long time. Some even threaten our lives. COVID-19 has shown us that.
Sickness affects us in more than physical ways. This is particularly so when illness is severe or long-lasting. It isolates us. Forced to spend time alone for more than a little while, we begin to worry. It’s easy, when we’re sick, to become preoccupied with ourselves. We notice every twinge, expecting the worst, and feeling vulnerable. We may fear people have forgotten about us. Especially if sickness is serious, we may become sad and discouraged. Life is going on all around us, and we’re not participating in it. Maybe, we get resentful or angry.
When we take care of the sick, we help them in all kinds of ways. Our visits—or our attention to someone in our own home, who is ill—let them know they haven’t been forgotten, that people miss them, and look forward to having them back in their company. We assure them their dignity and value aren’t diminished by illness. We help them look beyond themselves to the wider world. With that, they’re better able to regain perspective. The gospel reading helps us to know that there’s even more going on, something much deeper. It begins with a simple human connection, an outreach of love and concern. It’s often the case with our faith that something we consider ordinary—like a visit or a chat or a phone call or a text message or a bowl of chicken soup—is much more. Something like Jesus, himself. “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” they asked. “Can anything good come from
Nazareth?” some wondered. All the while, the carpenter/preacher from the wrong side of the tracks, who appeared so ordinary, was the Son of God.
Finding the Extraordinary God in ordinary living is our privilege and challenge. The gospel tells us that when we care for an ailing brother or sister with a visit, a call, an advocacy on their behalf, we encounter Jesus, the Christ, our brother and Lord. When we love the sister or brother we can see, we show our love for the God hidden from our sight and living in them. We enrich their lives, and in turn, they deepen our living. In the depths of our graced humanity, God abides. Through our care for the sick in our midst, we receive our hundredfold promised by the Lord. The entire encounter becomes “a holy exchange of gifts” between visitor and visited. Everyone is lifted up. The new creation is made manifest. Salvation is close at hand. The reign of God has come near. All of that from a simple, ordinary outreach of loving care.”
(Fr. Keith Kennific, Diocese of Charlottetown in Corporal Works of Mercy, Atlantic Liturgical Commission, 2021)
‘Sometimes, the person most needing the visit can be us, and we don’t even know it’
Our youth on visiting the sick:
Each Sunday of Lent, plus Palm Sunday and Wednesday of Holy Week, we will share a reflection and video to learn of and practise the seven Corporal Works of Mercy:
The information is based on a new resource prepared by the Atlantic Liturgical Commission, and includes submission from diocesan staff and clergy throughout the Atlantic Provinces.
(Click on the image to download)
We invite you to download the resource and celebrate the prayer services at home. The music, readings, reflections and prayers are provided for you and you may wish simply to use, for example, the YouTube link for the hymn, but if you are able to sing yourselves then that is encouraged. We invite you to use these rituals in ways that work best for you and your situations. That we gather to pray and act is the most important thing.
Watch for our next posting on the Fifth Sunday of Lent: Visit the Imprisoned