Papal message takes inspiration from the Book of Job 29:15: “I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame.”
The World Day of the Sick was instituted by St. Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1992, just one year after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. It is celebrated every year on the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes, as “a special time for prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering for the good of the Church and of reminding everyone to see in his sick brother or sister the face of Christ” (Pope John Paul II, Message for the 1st World Day of the Sick, 1992).
Here below we publish the full text of the Pope’s Message.
"I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame” (Job 29:15)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this, the twenty-third World Day of the Sick, begun by Saint John Paul II, I turn to all of you who are burdened by illness and are united in various ways to the flesh of the suffering Christ, as well as to you, professionals and volunteers in the field of health care.
This year’s theme invites us to reflect on a phrase from the Book of Job: "I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame" (Job29:15). I would like to consider this phrase from the perspective of "sapientia cordis" – the wisdom of the heart.
1. This "wisdom" is no theoretical, abstract knowledge, the product of reasoning. Rather, it is, as Saint James describes it in his Letter, "pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity" (3:17). It is a way of seeing things infused by the Holy Spirit in the minds and the hearts of those who are sensitive to the sufferings of their brothers and sisters and who can see in them the image of God. So let us take up the prayer of the Psalmist: "Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Ps 90:12). This "sapientia cordis", which is a gift of God, is a compendium of the fruits of the World Day of the Sick.
2. Wisdom of the heart means serving our brothers and sisters. Job’s words: "I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame", point to the service which this just man, who enjoyed a certain authority and a position of importance amongst the elders of his city, offered to those in need. His moral grandeur found expression in the help he gave to the poor who sought his help and in his care for orphans and widows (Job 29:12-13).
Today too, how many Christians show, not by their words but by lives rooted in a genuine faith, that they are "eyes to the blind" and "feet to the lame"! They are close to the sick in need of constant care and help in washing, dressing and eating. This service, especially when it is protracted, can become tiring and burdensome. It is relatively easy to help someone for a few days but it is difficult to look after a person for months or even years, in some cases when he or she is no longer capable of expressing gratitude. And yet, what a great path of sanctification this is! In those difficult moments we can rely in a special way on the closeness of the Lord, and we become a special means of support for the Church’s mission.
3. Wisdom of the heart means being with our brothers and sisters. Time spent with the sick is holy time. It is a way of praising God who conforms us to the image of his Son, who "came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28). Jesus himself said: "I am among you as one who serves" (Lk 22:27).
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