Societies and humanity have developed to the extent that practices and behaviours that were ethically normal in our family systems are becoming dysfunctional. A typical example is the family value that we share with members of the family that are sick and elderly is gradually exiting the scene of family life. Sick members of the families are now tagged by some as ‘useless mouths to feed’ and others are left alone to wallow in the nothingness of their solitude. Are these sick members part of the families? Did we play with these people and interacted with them when they were healthy before? Do they need our care and assistance in these moments of dread and confusion about their states of life? Pope Francis in his Message For The XXIX World Day of the Sick 2021 urged all people of goodwill to have a “trust-based” relationship when caring for the sick. He says this because “the experience of sickness makes us realize our own vulnerability and our innate need of others. It makes us feel all the more clearly that we are creatures dependent on God. When we are ill, fear and even bewilderment can grip our minds and hearts; we find ourselves powerless, since our health does not depend on our abilities or life’s incessant worries (Mt 6:27), Message of His Holiness Pope Francis For The XXIX World Day of the Sick 2021, n.2). Therefore, we need to embrace a new normal of a trust-based care for the sick even in this era of the coronavirus. The new normal was practiced by the ancients where the sick members of the families were considered important people to reintegrate into the normal life.
As the Catholic Church in the world marks annually 11 February as the World Day of the Sick, we must be ready to reflect on the need to care for our sick brothers and sisters especially in this era of the pandemic. As Pope Francis exhorts, we must devote special attention to the sick and those who provide them with assistance and care both in healthcare institutions and within families and communities. It is a clarion call to all to have faith in times of sickness, be closer to the sick and their carers and to establish fraternal solidarity with those who are sick.
Healing Family Life
The sick members of our societies belong to families and they were once active in the affairs of the families. There is the need to care for them because they are part and parcel of our families. The family should be the starting point for the healing of these multitude of persons or members who are sick. The world is ravaged by the pandemic today and care for the sick should be more encouraged. We do not have to label them (the sick) as people not worth our relations. There should be that trust-based relationship and Pope Francis puts it more beautifully: Jesus asks us to stop and listen, to establish a direct and personal relationship with others, to feel empathy and compassion, and let their suffering become our own as we seek to serve them (Lk 10:30-35) (Message of His Holiness Pope Francis For The XXIX World Day of the Sick 2021, n.1). The care of the sick must necessarily come from family life. Let’s imagine the families not healing the sick persons and giving them the necessary assistance. What can be the motivation and the encouragement for these members of the family? On this Day of the Sick, we must contemplate as families and embrace a new normal that was practiced by the ancients to bring courage, smile, and meaningfulness of life to the faces of those members sick in the families.
Curing social insanity
A lot of thinking batters sick members of the family such that if they are left alone in their quest to find healing and meaning to life, it becomes disastrous. Typical is how society treats the sick today especially in our families. Caring for the sick does not need eloquent abstractions from sociology, theology, philosophy, psychology, and the other humanities in order to be practiced. What is needed is a simple act of love from both family and society towards these people. Society can bring down the sanity in curing sick persons into oblivion. Pope Francis gave us the biblical figure of Job as a model in this regard. Job’s wife and friends do not accompany him in his misfortune; instead, they blame him and only aggravate his solitude and distress (Job 2:9-11). Social insanity today can be likened to the wife and friends of Job who infused him with distress rather than faith in God. Does society today push us to abandon the sick? Do the ills of social life make us forget about the sick and the carers? It is true that “sickness always has more than one face: it has the face of all the sick, but also those who feel ignored, excluded and prey to social injustices that deny their fundamental rights” (Fratelli Tutti, 22).
We have to embrace the role and the life of others who are fighting tooth and nail to bring sanity into our society for the sake of those who are sick. According to Pope Francis in his Message For The XXIX World Day of the Sick 2021, “a silent multitude of men and women, they chose not to look the other way but to share the suffering of patients, whom they saw as neighbors and members of our one human family (n.3). This attitude of embracing the new normal to care for the sick will create for us Christian communities of healing.
Christian Communities of Healing
Pope Francis never stops praising and praying for the communities of people who are administering health care to those sick especially those afflicted with the coronavirus. The Roman Pontiff shares that there should be a closeness between the sick and the carers. Although the current pandemic brings out the inequalities in our healthcare systems and exposed inefficiencies in the care of the sick, “yet the pandemic has also highlighted the dedication and generosity of healthcare personnel, volunteers, support staff, priests, men, and women religious, all of whom have helped, treated, comforted and served so many of the sick and their families with professionalism, self-giving, responsibility and love of neighbour” (Message of His Holiness Pope Francis For The XXIX World Day of the Sick 2021, n.3). The closeness we experience as Christians in times of sickness is like the love of Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan who draws near with compassion to every man and woman wounded by sin.
The closeness that we must embrace with those who are sick especially from their carers “is like a precious balm that provides support and consolation to the sick in their suffering”. We must stop the stigmatization especially with those afflicted with the coronavirus and even those who are purported sick people with the virus. We must support and encourage the sick in this time whether the person is suffering from the virus or not. Christian Communities should be havens of healing for people who are sick. The fundamental law of love should bind us all in this not normal times. Special attention should be devoted to the sick so that they can feel welcomed by the family and society. On this World Day For the Sick, let us pray for the sick and their carers that they may devote their attention to them. We should pray for ourselves that when we are faced with being and nothingness in our daily struggle against sickness and illness, the Lord who is the Good Samaritan will be there to bind us up in His tender love and care. We must always remember and agree with Pope Francis that “fraternal love in Christ generates a community of healing, a community that leaves no one behind, a community that is inclusive and welcoming, especially to those most in need” (Message of His Holiness Pope Francis For The XXIX World Day of the Sick 2021, n.3)
By COMBEY MICHAEL SELASI