7/2/2010 World Day of the Sick

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World Day of the Sick 2010
Homily notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin, Primate of Ireland

Church of the Good Shepherd, Churchtown, 7th February 2010
       We celebrate once again the World Day of the Sick.  We remember in prayer the sick who join us and we remember those who give themselves in their care.  We celebrate a Church which is a community of believers in Jesus Christ who witness to Jesus through a service of love for the suffering.
The Christian vocation is not something that we design for ourselves.  Vocation is a calling that we answer.  This applies to every particular vocation; it applies to the basic vocation of all Christians.  We do not design our own model of Christianity.  It is Jesus himself who calls us, and his call always surprises and may well upturn our own plans and expectations.

In today’s Gospel, Simon Peter and the fishermen were cleaning their nets, with their night’s work done, but without any success.  They were pondering about their hard and wearisome work when Jesus arrives at the shore of the lake.

To Simon’s great surprise Jesus comes towards him asks to get into his boat and suggests that they move out a little from the shore to permit Jesus to address from a distance the crowd that had gathered.  Jesus begins a dialogue with Simon, at first about simple practical things, but it is a dialogue which is going to mark Simon’s life for ever.

Simon begins to listen to the words of Jesus and watches how Jesus captures the hearts and minds of the others who are listening.  The message of Jesus attracts him and something is beginning to move in his own heart.
But then Jesus surprises Simon further.  Jesus asks him to move out into the deep and prepare for a catch.  Peter is an expert fisher.  He knows where to look for fish and he knows when he is wasting his time.  But for some reason he accepts the invitation of Jesus, even though he first tries to explain that he had been attempting all night to catch and that from the point of view of an expert in fishing it was pointless to go back.

Simon answers the call of Jesus; somehow he abandons his natural caution; and once again Jesus takes him by surprise.  Relying on his own abilities, his efforts were without success.  When he abandons his own certainties and follows the call of Jesus, then the catch is so great that the boat of Peter and also that of his fishing companions James and John are filled to overflowing.   Faith in Jesus Christ challenges us to look for salvation and fulfilment in ways which seem to go against the logic of conventional wisdom. Faith urges us to seek not just the conventional no-risk or low risk answers.
In today’s World Day of the Sick we are reminded of the nature of the Church.  The Church should never loose sight of its true mission which is one of service.  And that service is directed in a special way to those who suffer.   Carers are not just Christians who do something extra.  They are symbols of what the Church is, a caring community.  All of us must learn from them.  All of us must take carers into our care as a community.  Caring can be a lonely and burdensome task, especially if one is left on ones own.  The Church must embrace and support all those who carry out that Christlike mission of caring for the sick.  Every parish should reach out to carers and ensure that they are supported as persons and in their work.

We are all called to build up the body of Jesus which is the Church.  Whether we are sick, whether we are carers, whether our health is strong or frail, each in our own way builds up the body of Christ and we should encounter in the Church and bring to the life of the Church the care of Christ.
Jesus will always respond to us with generosity. He does not just surprise us but he stuns us with his generosity.  There is never anything miserly or measured or calculating in the way God’s love embraces us.  At the Wedding Feast in Cana, Jesus’ gesture produces wine in gallons; after the feeding of the crowd, dozens of baskets remain; today the catch is so great that Simon has to call two more boats.  God’s love is superabundant; it goes way beyond any human calculation. God responds in terms which go way beyond anything we merit or could have imagined on our own plans.  Jesus helps us to achieve more than we on our own strength could hope to achieve.
How does Simon respond: the greatness of God’s generosity and love makes him realise his own inadequacy.  He cries out: “Depart from me for I am a sinful man”.  Any encounter with the generosity of God reveals just how distant we are in our lives from him. It is from this honest recognition of our sinfulness that we can begin a true path of conversion.  Jesus’ call us to conversion not through punitive or threatening gestures, but through allowing us to experience the lavishness of his love.
The love of Jesus changes the way we interact with others.  Solidarity is not just helping; it is entering into and establishing a different kind of relationship with others and changing relations in the world.  The message of Jesus is never a message of domination, but one which frees all of us to be the people God wishes us to be.  It is a message which changes the way we interact with others. Faith is above all about trust in God who frees us so that we can transcend our own abilities and realise even greater things in our lives.
There is a final note about faith in today’s Gospel.  Once called, the disciples instantly leave everything to follow Jesus. Faith is not something we can negotiate in order to work out our own terms of engagement.  It is placing our absolute trust in God and abandoning our own certainties so that we can be free.
There are times when it is difficult to understand our sickness and our weakness.   The Church is the place where the kindness of Jesus towards the sick is especially realised.  It is Jesus himself who does this through his comforting presence in the Sacrament of the Sick which we will celebrate in a few moments.
The Church is also the place where the care of Jesus is represented by the members of a caring community.  Many today are disillusioned by the Church.  They have lost their contact and trust in the Church.  How do we reach out to such people and especially to young people?  One special place in which we can witness to the true Church is through our care for the sick.  Jesus preached the Good News, but he always accompanied that proclaiming of the word, with the witness of caring for the sick and freeing those who bore burdens in their hearts.  A Church which just proclaims an abstract message without accompanying it with witness to the loving kindness of God would not be fully the Church of Jesus Christ.
As a community let us renew our commitment to witnessing in our lives to what the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ means today and in the tomorrow of our communities.  May Jesus, the Good Shepherd, with us in our lives and today especially in the lives of those who are sick and those who care for them.