6/2/2011 World Day of the Sick Homily

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Homily Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland

Saint Anthony’s Church, Clontarf, 6th February 2011

Our celebration here this afternoon is not simply just what we see here.  This celebration of the World Day of the Sick 2011 is a celebration of the entire diocese.  It is a moment in which we are joined in prayer by all our brothers and sisters who form the Church of Christ spread in this Archdiocese of Dublin.

The Church is present in its ministry to the sick in many ways.  This is witnessed to by various charisms represented here this afternoon: doctors, nurses, hospital administrators and staff; in the persons of carers, family members, the social services and our ambulance services these charisms are represented by priests, by hospital chaplains and representatives of parishes and associations of Christian life.   I greet you all.

We are grateful to each of you for the work that you with and for the sick. Your work will become more important in the months and years to come when many services which have been guaranteed by public funds will now be left more and more in the hands of volunteers.  The responsibility of the Christian community for the sick belongs to the entire Christian community and our gathering this afternoon is a sign that the Christian community will never be found lacking in mobilising it charism of love.

Christians in the world must be different.  This does not mean that they opt out of daily life, much less that the feel in some way superior to others.  The Gospel reading reminded us that the Christian is called to be salt of the earth.  We Christians are to be a light which others can see and then give glory to God.

But we are not salt of the earth and light of the world just by virtue of our own activities or because we bear a tag which says Christian.   We are only salt of the earth if first of all our own lives give glory to God.  We are salt of the earth when consistently witness to values which our own world may no longer share.  Once again we cannot automatically presume to have acquired these values ourselves if we have not opened our lives to God’s way of looking at the meaning of life.

We come here as a Christian community of which our sick brothers and sisters are an integral part.  It is not simply that we come to take care of the sick, as though they were passive spectators of our actions.  The sick are an integral part of the Church.  Caring for the sick always accompanied Jesus proclamation of the Good News.  There is a sense in which there no Church without the sick.

Through their own lives, the sick teach us what union with the passion of Christ means.  In the Sacrament of the Sick they receive a special consecration which links them with Jesus’ redemptive passion. At a moment in their life span when they are weak, they are united in a special with life giving power of the death and resurrection of Jesus, that life which was initiated in them at Baptism.

The sick celebrate the Sacrament of the Sick rather than just receive it.  This is an action of the Church and the sick person through this sacrament contributes to the sanctifying work of the Church.  The sick unite their suffering with that of Christ and in this way they enrich the Christian life of all of us and they teach us what Christian community really is.

The very sense of weariness and fragility which marks our sick brothers and sisters renders them significant for the Christian community.  Their life has special value from which we can all learn. We come to be beside them and to recognise that human dignity and indeed human greatness can and does spring forth among those who are weak in worldly terms.  Life is much more than wealth and strength and power and celebrity.

Our celebration focuses on our sick brothers and sisters, but it is above all a celebration life.  It is about the special light that our Christian faith can shed within the world of suffering.  Our celebration is a celebration of the centrality and the inviolability of all life.  It is a celebration of the Christian command of solidarity with others and care for others.   It is a sign of that special gift of communion which is the fruit of sharing the one body in the Eucharist.  We cannot come away from sharing the one Eucharistic bread indifferent to the life of others.

The Holy Spirit is present among us at this moment as we gather as a Christian community in prayer.  We pray that our sick brothers and sisters will be strengthened by the presence of the spirit, especially at those moments in which they feel discouraged or anxious or fearful or alone.  This sacrament is a sacrament of healing.  In it we encounter Christ the healer.  We encounter Jesus the one who reveals to us who God is, and reminds of the fidelity of God to his people over the entire history of salvation.  In our first redaing we heard the phrase which we can find running as a thread throughout the Old Testament:  “The Lord will say ‘I am with you”.

The sacrament of the sick is a gift to the entire Church and is also a sacrament of renewal for us all.  It reminds us that as Christians our life must a light which leads us all to a true sense of why living is worth living and of where we discern and find the deepest meaning in life.

As Christians we live in the world with our own Christian understanding of the fundamental values of life.   This does not mean imposing our own view on society or indeed opting out of society.  It means quite the opposite.  As Christians, we are called to make a contribution to life and society which springs from our convictions. As followers of a God who is love we are called to work to create a society which cares.

We stand at an important moment regarding the future of our Irish society.  In a difficult economic situation the Christian, as an individual, as a citizen and as voter, is called to bring his or her discernment regarding the realization of the values that we draw from our belief.   In a climate marked too often only by criticism and mud-slinging, we Christians are called to drive for a sense of common purpose regarding the type of society we wish our political leaders to generate and the values that we would wish to see enshrined in that society.

Our celebration which places the sick and the weak at the centre of its reflection cannot but generate in us a desire to ensure that our sick and marginalised will encounter a society in which they are respected, where each and every one of them receives the highest possible care.  We cannot but aspire to see a society in which the elderly can live their latter years in tranquillity and security, after giving of the best of themselves throughout their lives without them ever counting the cost.

At this celebration we cannot but aspire to a society in which human life will be respected throughout its entire life span, but also one in which human life will be supported and those who care for the weakest will feel that their efforts are valued and supported.

Likewise this celebration challenges us all to work for renewal of our Church so that it can truly be a community built up around the message and the presence of Jesus Christ, a community which within itself is a place of healing and support; a community which through its own life witnesses to that savour and meaning, that light and hope which come alone from Christ.

United around our sick brothers and sisters let us all now join together in prayer and invoke the strength and comfort of the Spirit of Christ on all of us gathered here, on our communities and on our Church.