Did you know that each year the Church celebrates a World Day of the Sick?
It was instituted in 1992 by Pope John Paul II to be celebrated on February 11, the commemoration of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette Soubirous, at whose shrine at Lourdes so many have been healed. The Holy Father had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a year earlier, though it was not acknowledged publicly.
Catholics are called by this observance to reflect on the mystery of suffering that is common to all human beings. It is also a reminder of the importance of compassion for those suffering and in need by individuals as well as society. In his encyclical Spe Salvi (In hope we are saved) Pope Benedict XVI teaches that “the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer.”
Jesus did not take away our suffering, but, by becoming a human being and sharing in our suffering and pain, he completely changed it. He made suffering redemptive.
When I was a boy and we suffered even a minor hurt, we were always reminded to “offer it up” meaning to make our suffering redemptive for others. Perhaps we should revive that practice to give meaning to the suffering that we all share.
We are also called by Christian compassion to reach out to those who are suffering and in need, always keeping in mind that it is the love of Christ that motivates us.