Calls for attentive listening to health authorities, but also urges us to think of the sick and those "already marginalized when they enter the hospitals."
Though Pope Francis has admitted that he hates having the Wednesday general audiences without pilgrims — because it’s like “talking to ghosts” — he began the November 4 catechesis with an invitation to “offer to the Lord this distance between us, for the good of all.”
This was the first week after a few-week reprieve (since September 2) that the audience went back to being live-streamed from the Apostolic Library, as it was for several months starting in March when the pandemic began. The change was made after one infection was traced to an October Wednesday audience.
The Holy Father took the occasion to say that it “teaches us that we must be very attentive to the prescriptions of the authorities, both the political authorities and the health authorities, to defend ourselves against this pandemic.”
The pope turned it to an invitation for spiritual growth:
Let us offer to the Lord this distance between us, for the good of all, and let us think, let us think a lot about the sick, about those who are already marginalized when they enter the hospitals, let us think of the doctors, the nurses, the volunteers, the many people who work with the sick at this time: They risk their life but they do so out of love for their neighbor, as a vocation. Let us pray for them.
Offering it up
The concept of “offering to the Lord” our suffering, or even our joys, is deeply rooted in Catholic theology and the Bible.
We’re never more like Jesus than when we offer our undeserved suffering to the Father, and the Lord can change that suffering, giving it meaning like the anguish of Calvary. When we offer up our pain (or discomfort or frustration or uncertainty), God takes that struggle as a prayer, strengthened by suffering, and uses it for the salvation of souls and the glory of his name.
See more below:
“Offering it up”: Is that still a thing?
While the Holy Father has repeatedly called for attentive listening to directives to health authorities, he has also deplored the situation in which, especially the elderly, find themselves dying alone.
He was clear about that in his encyclical Fratelli tutti:
We have seen what happened with the elderly in certain places in our world as a result of the coronavirus. They did not have to die that way. Yet something similar had long been occurring during heat waves and in other situations: older people found themselves cruelly abandoned. We fail to realize that, by isolating the elderly and leaving them in the care of others without the closeness and concern of family members, we disfigure and impoverish the family itself. We also end up depriving young people of a necessary connection to their roots and a wisdom that the young cannot achieve on their own.