World Day of the Sick, 11 February 2021
“You have but one teacher and you are all brothers” (Mt 23:8). A trust-based relationship to guide care for the sick
The World Day of the Sick 2021 is given special significance by the extraordinary and challenging times through which we are living.
Our theme this year is taken from the Gospel passage in which Jesus warns against hypocrisy and urges us to practice what we preach. We are specifically called to remember that we “are all brothers”.
This echoes Pope Francis’s recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, in which the parable of the Good Samaritan forms a golden thread showing us “how a community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject the creation of a society of exclusion, and act instead as neighbours, lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good.” (Fratelli Tutti, 67)
Today, we bring to mind all those who are suffering at this time of pandemic, including those afflicted with Covid-19, those for whom treatments and therapies have been delayed or postponed, the mentally ill, the lonely and isolated, those working on the frontline, and the countless thousands of others who have made quiet and selfless acts of sacrifice. We remember and pray especially for those who have died in this last year and their loved ones who mourn them.
The fact of our fraternity reminds us that we are social beings, and Jesus’s warning against hypocrisy is also an encouragement towards kindness.
Pope Francis writes, “Kindness ought to be cultivated; it is no superficial bourgeois virtue. Precisely because it entails esteem and respect for others, once kindness becomes a culture within society it transforms lifestyles, relationships and the ways ideas are discussed and compared.” (Fratelli Tutti, 224)
The pandemic has brought an urgent need for society to take up this call to cultivate kindness, particularly in our treatment of the sick. The last year has generated some tragic scenarios in which heart-breaking decisions have had to be made about who receives urgent care. These decisions, necessary at the time, must now prompt us as a society to reflect on how we view and value the lives of the sick.
We are bound to the ill, suffering and dying by their vulnerability. Their trust in us is a gift which we must cherish, honour, and respect, for though their illness may seem to transform them, their God-given dignity always remains.
During the coming season of Lent, we will recall the suffering, death, and glorious resurrection of our Lord. I invite you to join me in making a commitment to open our hearts to an encounter with the human face of Christ in the sick, to judge them worthy and valuable no matter their physical or mental state, and to love them as brothers and sisters.
We pray to Our Lady of Lourdes to cover us with her mantle of love, and to give us grace in suffering and healing in sickness.
Bishop Paul Mason
Lead Bishop for Healthcare