General audience: the family, the closest hospital
Vatican City, 10 June 2015 (VIS) – Illness, a common experience in the life of families from childhood until advanced age, was the theme of the Pope's catechesis during this week's Wednesday general audience. “The family has always been the 'closest hospital'. And still, today, in many parts of the world, the hospital is a privilege enjoyed by few, and is often far away. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and grandparents provide care and help heal the sick."
In the Gospel there are many encounters between Jesus and the sick, and his commitment to caring for them. Christ “presents himself publicly as one who fights against sickness and who has come to cure man of every ill: ills of the spirit and of the body.” The Pope remarked that the scene in the Gospel of Mark – “that evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons” – is “truly moving. … If I think of today's great cities, I ask myself, where are the doors before which we can bring the sick, hoping they will be healed. Jesus never withdrew from their care, He never passed them by, He never turned away. And when a father or a mother, or even simply friends brought an invalid before Him, for Him to touch and heal, He wasted no time; healing came before the law, even sacred laws such as rest on the Sabbath.”
Jesus sent His disciples to fulfil the same task and He gave them the power to heal. “We must keep in mind what He said to the disciples in the episode of the man born blind. The disciples – with the blind man before them – debated about who had sinned, him or his parents, to provoke his blindness. The Lord said clearly: neither him nor his parents; 'but that the works of God might be displayed in him'. And He healed him. Here is the glory of God! Here is the task of the Church! To help the sick, not to get lost in talk. To help, console, alleviate, always to be near: this is her task.”
“The Church invites us to continual prayer for our dear ones who are sick, and prayer for them must never be lacking. Rather, we must pray more, both personally and as a community. … Faced with sickness, difficulties can also arise in the family as a result of human weakness. But in general illness strengthens family bonds. And I think of how important it is to educate children, starting from infancy, on the importance of solidarity in times of sickness. An education that shelters them from sensitivity to human sickness hardens the heart and anaesthetises the young to the suffering of others, rendering them incapable of facing up to suffering and living the experience of limits."
“The weakness and suffering of our most loved ones … can be … a school of life … and especially when illness is accompanied by prayer and the fraternal, affectionate closeness of families. The Christian community is well aware that the family, during the trials of sickness, must not be left alone. … This Christian closeness of family to family, is a true treasure for a parish: a treasure of wisdom, that helps families in difficult moments and enables them to understand the Kingdom of God more clearly than through words.”