The World Day of the Sick in 2023 will be on the 11th of February, and the theme the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has given to this day is ‘“Take care of him” Compassion as a synodal exercise of healing’.
The Pope starts his message by saying illness is part of our human condition, but if illness is experienced in isolation and abandonment, unaccompanied by care and compassion, it can become inhumane. To show how compassion can be a synodal exercise of healing the Pope notes that, ‘When we go on a journey with others, it is not unusual for someone to feel sick, to have to stop because of fatigue or of some mishap along the way. It is precisely in such moments that we see how we are walking together: whether we are truly companions on the journey, or merely individuals on the same path, looking after our own interests and leaving others to “make do”’. Pope Francis says it is for this reason that he invites all to reflect on the fact that it is especially through the experience of vulnerability and illness that people can learn to walk together according to the style of God, which is closeness, compassion, and tenderness.
In the message the Pope also makes reference to the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel where God says He will be the shepherd of his sheep Himself. The Pope appeals further on that, “Let us learn from him, then, how to be a community that truly walks together, capable of resisting the throwaway culture.” The Pope also points out that it is especially important to recognize the condition of loneliness and abandonment, “This kind of cruelty can be overcome more easily than any other injustice, because – as the parable tells us – it only takes a moment of our attention, of being moved to compassion within us, in order to eliminate it.”
Pointing out another danger the Bishop of Rome said people rarely prepared for illness, and oftentimes fail even to admit that they are getting older. “Our vulnerability frightens us and the pervasive culture of efficiency pushes us to sweep it under the carpet, leaving no room for our human frailty. In this way, when evil bursts onto the scene and wounds us, we are left stunned,” warned the Roman Pontiff. He then said because in such time other people may be abandoned it then that the whole Church measure herself against the Gospel example of the Good Samaritan, in order that she may become a true “field hospital”.
“The World Day of the Sick calls for prayer and closeness towards those who suffer. Yet it also aims to raise the awareness of God’s people, healthcare institutions and civil society with regard to a new way of moving forward together,” said Pope Francis.
Appealing to the parable of the Good Samaritan the Pope said The Samaritan calls the innkeeper to “take care of him”, and so Jesus addresses the same call to each person, ‘He exhorts us to “go and do likewise”’. “Sick people, in fact, are at the centre of God’s people, and the Church advances together with them as a sign of a humanity in which everyone is precious and no one should be discarded or left behind.”
Full message on the Vatican Website