A Parish that Knows and Loves its Sick People

help-others Fr. Rosario Messina

A Christian Community Attentive to the Pain and Anxiety of those who Suffer

We cannot live happily alone; the sick, too, have the right to celebrate. The event of Sunday Easter must open our eyes, ears and hearts, in order to transfer this joy and this celebration to where people suffer and weep; indeed, the true Mass for a believer begins when the liturgical assembly ends with the mandate of the celebrating priest: ‘Go and bear witness to Christ with your lives!’ For this reason, during the celebration of the Eucharist every believer must absorb what Jesus repeats to us: ‘I am the head, you are the members…I am the vine, you the tendrils…One only is the Father and all of you are brothers…by this will they recognise that you are my disciples, that you love one another…one body, one faith, one baptism, one love that unites all…I was hungry and you gave me food to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you came to visit me…every time that you did this to one of the smallest of my brethren, you did it to me’. One cannot, therefore touch the head that is Jesus in church, leaving the body, who is our neighbour, to abandonment and indifference outside the church. Pain and suffering must constitute a further reason to be caring and attentive towards those who suffer because of age, illness or loneliness.

The constant exercise of corporal and spiritual works of mercy was not invented by Pope Francis on the occasion of the Jubilee Year. Instead, they constitute the heart of the Gospel and they are the only things by which we will all be judged in the evening of life, as is revealed to us by the Gospel according to St. Matthew in chapter twenty-five. Thus in that great family – a parish – the parish priest and pastoral workers must act to make known to the faithful the illnesses, sufferings, pain and mourning that are experienced in very many homes, so that the faithful will be able, during the week, to visit, comfort, share, and bear the weight of so many crosses which, in loneliness, become even more unbearable. On 3 September 2016, Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square addressed to volunteers who had come from all over the world the following demanding words: ‘[The Church] cannot look away and turn her back on the many forms of poverty that cry out for mercy. This turning one’s back in order not to see hunger, sickness, exploited persons… this is a grave sin! It is also a modern sin, a sin of our times! We Christians cannot allow ourselves to do this. It is not worthy of the Church nor of any Christian to “pass by on the other side”, and to pretend to have a clean conscience simply because we have said our prayers or because we have been to Mass on Sunday. No…You are crafters of mercy: with your hands, with your eyes, with your hearing, with your closeness, by your touch…craftsmen! You express one of the most noble desires of the human heart, making a suffering person feel loved. In the different contexts of need of so many people, your presence is the hand of Christ held out to all, and reaching all. You are the hand of Christ held out: have you thought about this?’