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Ioannes Paulus PP. II
Christifideles Laici

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The Sick and the Suffering

53. People are called to joy. Nevertheless, each day they experience many forms of suffering and pain. The Synod Fathers in addressing men and women affected by these various forms of suffering and pain used the following words in their final Message: "You who are the abandoned and pushed to the edges of our consumer society; you who are sick, people with disabilities, the poor and hungry, migrants and prisoners, refugees, unemployed, abandoned children and old people who feel alone; you who are victims of war and all kinds of violence: the Church reminds you that she shares your suffering. She takes it to the Lord, who in turn associates you with his redeeming Passion. You are brought to life in the light of his resurrection. We need you to teach the whole world what love is. We will do everything we can so that you may find your rightful place in the Church and in society"(198).

In the context of such a limitless world as human suffering, We now turn our attention to all those struck down by sickness in its various forms: sickness is indeed the most frequent and common expression of human suffering.

The Lord addresses his call to each and every one. Even the sick are sent forth as labourers into the Lord's vineyard: the weight that wearies the body's members and dissipates the soul's serenity is far from dispensing a person from working in the vineyard. Instead the sick are called to live their human and Christian vocation and to participate in the growth of the Kingdom of God in a new and even more valuable manner. The words of the apostle Paul ought to become their approach to life or, better yet, cast an illumination to permit them to see the meaning of grace in their very situation: "In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church" (Col 1:24). Precisely in arriving at this realization, the apostle is raised up in joy: "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake" (Col 1:24). In the same way many of the sick can become bearers of the "joy inspired by the Holy Spirit in much affliction" (1 Thes 1:6) and witnesses to Jesus' resurrection. A handicapped person expressed these sentiments in a presentation in the Synod Hall: "It is very important to make clear that Christians who live in situations of illness, pain and old age are called by God not only to unite their suffering to Christ's Passion but also to receive in themselves now, and to transmit to others, the power of renewal and the joy of the risen Christ (cf. 2 Cor 4:10-11; 1 Pt 4:13; Rom 8:18 ff)"(199).

On the Church's part-as it reads in the Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris-"Born in the mystery of Redemption in the Cross of Christ, the Church has to try to meet man in a special way on the path of suffering. In this meeting man 'becomes the way for the Church', and this is one of the most important ways"(200). At this moment the suffering individual is the way of the Church because that person is, first of all, the way of Christ Himself, who is the Good Samaritan who "does not pass by", but "has compassion on him, went to him ... bound up his wounds ... took care of him" (Lk 10:32-34).

From century to century the Christian community in revealing and communicating its healing love and the consolation of Jesus Christ has reenacted the gospel parable of the Good Samaritan in caring for the vast multitude of persons who are sick and suffering. This came about through the untiring commitment of all those who have taken care of the sick and suffering as a result of science and the medical arts as well as the skilled and generous service of healthcare workers. Today there is an increase in the presence of lay women and men in Catholic hospital and healthcare institutions. At times the lay faithful's presence in these institutions is total and exclusive. It is to just such people-doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers, volunteers-that the call becomes the living signof Jesus Christ and his Church in showing love towards the sick and suffering.

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