The Jubilee Year of Mercy: 3rd reflection of the works of Mercy (Feb. 2016)
Visiting the Sick
PUBLICATION – During the Jubilee Year of Mercy the three Auxiliary Bishops write a pastoral article every month about the 14 works of Mercy. This month, which is also the month of the World Day of the Sick, Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo offers his reflection on visiting the sick.
This year we celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Every month, as part of the program of the local church in the Holy Land, we offer a reflection about one of the 14 works of Mercy. Moreover, this year Pope Francis chose Nazareth for the main celebration of the World Day of the Sick on February 11. Thus we consecrate this month of reflection to the sick.
1- Human principles
There are humanitarian principles to visit the sick. Sometimes the reasons, goals and practice of visiting the sick are not done adequately, so the Divine revelation in the Scriptures can guide us to the right practice.
2- Scriptures’ principles: why and how do we visit the sick?
The most important passage in the Bible that talks about the importance of visiting the sick is in Matthew 25: 31-46, especially the verse 40: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”.
He who visits the sick, visits Christ. Visiting the sick and doing the good work for those who suffer and who are in need is one of Christ’s commandments. When Jesus Christ told us the parable of the Good Samaritan, he added: “Go and do likewise”.
And on the occasion of the World Day of the Sick Pope Francis tells us “Be merciful just like when Virgin Mary when she told the servant in the marriage of Cana: Do whatever he said to you”.
In the book of Job we learn the following when visiting the sick: we shouldn’t turn the victim into a guilty person. We shouldn’t oppress sick people and we shouldn’t turn the visitor into a sage doctor (giving good or bad advice on what the sick should do or not do). As Psalm 41:6 says “When one of them comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander; then he goes out and spreads it around.
3- The history of the Church: Who’s visiting whom?
When we read the letter of St. Polycarp, Bishop of Izmir, he says “let the presbyters be compassionate and merciful to all, bringing back those that wander, visiting all the sick, and not neglecting the widow, the orphan, or the poor”.
Throughout the long history of the church many hospitals were established in evrey time and space. The church also founded orders to specifically take care of those who suffer.
There are countless saints that devoted their lives for the sick. Mother Teresa is one of them. In her life she used to visit the abandoned and the unfortunate. Pope Francis is another example. His Holiness consecrates every Wednesday to meet and talk with the sick that are present in St. Peter’s Square.
In our part of the world, we have Mariam Baouardy and Mary Alphonsine Daniel Ghattas and Simon Sarouji. Moreover, we have the members of the Legio Maria who have weekly visits to the sick. I’d like here to mention the educator Marguarite Kashou (passed away in 2009) who used to visit the sick on a regular basis.
A successful visit to the sick is one where the ill feels that he or she still feels loved by God and people. It’s important that the ill feel like they are as valued as everybody else.
Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo. Nazareth, February 1.