To serve the poor and sick in a generous manner is a powerful form of evangelization, Pope Francis said Tuesday in a message for the upcoming World Day of the Sick.
“The Church – as a Mother to all her children, especially the infirm – reminds us that generous gestures, like that of the Good Samaritan, are the most credible means of evangelization,” the pope wrote.
His message for the World Day of the Sick was published Jan. 8, in advance of the solemn celebration to be held Feb. 11, 2019, in Calcutta, India. The theme of this year’s message comes from Matthew 10:8: “You received without payment; give without payment.”
“Gift,” Francis said, is more than giving of physical property or objects as presents: “it involves the giving of oneself,” freely, and with the desire for relationship with others, “the basis of society.”
Moreover, “‘gift’ is a reflection of God’s love, which culminates in the incarnation of the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” he said.
The pope noted that one person who exemplified self-gift, especially in service of the sick, is St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who “helps us understand that our only criterion of action must be selfless love for every human being, without distinction of language, culture, ethnicity or religion.”
Her example continues to be a guide of hope and joy for those in need of understanding and love – especially the suffering, he said.
Quoting from the homily he gave at her canonization Mass Sept. 4, 2016, he said: “For Mother Teresa, mercy was the ‘salt’ which gave flavor to her work; it was the ‘light’ that shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.”
“Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for us today an eloquent witness to God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor,” he continued.
Pope Francis said that when thinking of the sick or infirm, it is good to remember that every person, at birth, is reliant on his or her parents to survive, and remains in need of the help of others in some manner at every stage of life.
Acknowledging this fact helps people to practice solidarity with those in need, he explained: “Only if we see ourselves, not as a world apart, but in a fraternal relationship with others, can we develop a social practice of solidarity aimed at the common good.”
People should not fear personal limitations or reliance on others, because “God himself, in Jesus, has humbly stooped down to us and continues to do so; in our poverty, he comes to our aid and grants us gifts beyond our imagining,” Francis stated.
In his message, the pope also praised the work of healthcare volunteers, who, he said, “eloquently embody the spirituality of the Good Samaritan.”
Volunteer work in hospitals and in homes, offering health care and spiritual support, “is of primary importance,” he stated, urging people to continue to be a sign of the Church’s presence to the sick and elderly and infirm in body or mind.
Catholic healthcare institutions, in particular, should be inspired by generosity, self-giving, and solidarity, he explained, since they “carry out their activity in the light of the Gospel.”
“Catholic healthcare institutions must not fall into the trap of simply running a business; they must be concerned with personal care more than profit,” he said.