LET’S make this our New Year resolution: Be guided by the wisdom of the heart.
This was one of Pope Francis’s major end of the year reflections. It is his message for the 23rd World Day of the Sick, which occurs on February 11. But it became public just before New Year’s Eve because papal messages are distributed in advance to all institutions concerned.
It is addressed to all human beings to make them more loving and caring of the sick—including sick people themselves, so they too realize the value of their suffering.
He reminds all that the World Day of the Sick was 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.’ I would like to consider this phrase from the perspective of ‘sapientia cordis’—the wisdom of the heart.”
Pope Francis tells us that “This ‘wisdom’ is not 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’. 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 . . . This ‘sapientia cordis’, which is a gift of God, is a compendium of the fruits of the World Day of the Sick.”
“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.”
He then points to the fact that today “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.”
The Pope reminds us too that this “wisdom of the heart means” being physically with the sick. “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’.” He urges us to “ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the grace to appreciate the value of our often unspoken willingness to spend time with these sisters and brothers who, thanks to our closeness and affection, feel more loved and comforted. How great a lie, on the other hand, lurks behind certain phrases which so insist on the importance of ‘quality of life’ that they make people think that lives affected by grave illness are not worth living!”
And he exhorts us to have such wisdom of the heart as to show “solidarity with our brothers and sisters while not judging them. Charity takes time. Time to care for the sick and time to visit them.” But it must be “true charity.” This “sharing . . . does not judge … does not demand the conversion of others . . . [it is]free of that false humility which, deep down, seeks praise and is self-satisfied about whatever good it does.”
HAPPY NEW YEAR!