Charity towards the sick

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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

During the past weeks the temperature in Malta has been getting chillier and chillier. In fact, according to the Malta International Airport Meteorological Office temperatures even dropped to a minimum of 4ºC. Obviously, this kind of weather will surely make influwenza incidences soar up. Unfortunately many are contracting this unpleasant and irritating virus.

However, the good news is that amid this chilly weather Archbishop Charles J Scicluna’s tweet warmed this unhappy situation by the solidarity it exuded particularly to our brothers and sisters who need shelter from the cold. “If you know anyone needing shelter from the cold please contact Dar Papa Frangisku (men): 27888211 / Dar Maria Dolores (women): 21445431.— Bishop CJ Scicluna (@BishopScicluna).

The issue concerning influwenza made me go back in time, precisely some 29 years ago. As a matter of fact it reminded me of that unforgettible General Audience which Pope John Paul I gave on Wednesday 6 September 1978. Among the people who were present in that famous audience there were the choir-boys of Malta. Pope John Paul I called one of them, whose name was James, and with him he held this interesting as well as heartfelt conversation.

“I am told that the choir-boys of Malta are here. Let one come here, please … thechoir-boys of Malta, who have served in St Peter’s for a month. Well, what is your name?—James! —James. And listen, have you ever been ill? —No. —Ah, never? —No. —Never been ill? —No. —Not even a temperature? —No. —Oh, how lucky you are! But when a child is ill, who brings him a little broth, some medicine? Isn’t it his mother? That’s it. After wards you grow up, and your mother gets old; you become a fine gentleman, and your mother, poor thing, will be in bed, ill. That’s it. Well, who will bring the mother a little milk and medicine? Who will?
—My brothers and I.—Well said! ‘His brothers and he,’ he said. I like that. Did you understand?”

Sickness invites us to display solidarity with those who are ill. It motivates us to be thehuman face of God to our brothers and sisters who are sick. In his homily during theHoly Mass concluding the Jubilee for the Sick and Disabled on June 12 2016 Pope Francis said: “The world does not become better because only apparently ‘perfect’ people live there – I say ‘perfect’ rather than ‘false’ – but when human solidarity, mutual acceptance and respect increase. How true are the words of the Apostle: ‘God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong’ (1 Cor 1:27)!”

The unceasing testimony of the saints never tires of reminding us that coming to theaid of the sick means being the living icon of the Good Samaritan to them. In his address for the 10th World Day of the Sick, on February 11 2002, Saint John Paul II wrote:

“It is right to fight sickness because health is a gift of God…World Day of theSick reminds us then, that beside every suffering person there must be a brother or sister motivated by charity. Like the Good Samaritan, of which Jesus speaks in thewell-known Gospel parable, every believer is called to offer love to all who are suffering. Never ‘pass by’! On the contrary, he should stop to bend over the person who is crushed, suffering, and alleviate his burden and difficulties. This is how theGospel of consolation and charity is proclaimed; this is the witness that the people of our time expect from all Christians”.

The famous Italian Catholic bishop, theologian and spiritual writer, Saint Alphonsus Maria de’ Ligouri, used to exhort his brethren: “We must show charity towards the sick, who are in greater need of help. Let us take them some small gift if they are poor, or, at least let us go and wait on them and comfort them”.

If people you know are sick from influwenza pray for them, send them an encouraging message and, if they need any help, give it to them. Charity towards the sick is charity manifested to Christ himself directly.

How consoling will be our meeting with Him at our judgement day when He will tell us: “I was sick and you visited me” (Matt 25:36)!

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