Being present to the sick and the suffering

Feb 8, 2022 | Blog Articles

One of the best-known corporal works of mercy is visiting the sick, an opportunity to “be” with those who are suffering.

On February 11, the Church celebrates the “World Day of Sick,” joining in prayer for the healing of the sick, and inviting Christians to look at sickness and suffering in a new way. One of the best known (and recognized) corporal works of mercy is to visit the sick. However, I wonder if we do it in a truly effective way. We might visit the sick with a look of pity, with feelings of sadness and with a certain superiority, even if unconscious, because our situation of being “healthy” is preferable. In this respect, we put ourselves more in the place of those who help, those who can give, rather than in the real challenge of this work of mercy, which I believe is to recognize the dignify of the sick.

Jesus identifies with the sick, telling us, “I was sick and you visited me” (Matthew 25:36). One of the fundamental missions of this corporal work of mercy is to simply “be” with a sick person. It is a “being” that accompanies, that listens, that is present. Not so that we may look at the sick with anguish and sorrow, but with respect for those who can be more intimately united to Jesus and who, for that very reason, can bring us closer to him. Not to say that we should desire to be sick, but we can admire the condition of those who suffer with resilience and strength. Above all, we should everything that we can do to make room for the sick in our lives and societies, so that they do not feel useless, isolated, or abandoned.

Pope Francis tells us that, “Patients are always more important than their diseases” (Message for the World Day of the Sick, 2022). Every sick person has great dignity, a dignity we can recognize whenever we accompany them and simply “be” with them in their suffering.

– Andreia Carvalho
Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Portugal)

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