WORLD DAY OF THE SICK 2019
Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin
Corpus Christi Parish Church, Drumcondra 10 February 2019
We gather as a community to celebrate the Church’s World Day of the Sick. We gather not as experts and professionals. Yes, some of those among us are indeed professionals and we appreciate the gift of their professionalism.
Care of the sick is however something that involves all of society. It involves community and a special form of community that feels the call to be with the sick and to give them something of ourselves and to learn something from them.
We come together at a time when confidence in our national health care system is tested in many ways. Confidence can only be gained through openness. People want to know honestly why things go wrong and when all is not all right. The answers will not come from polemics. Ireland can and should have a world-class health care system. We have to get on with that.
This afternoon we gather as a community of the sick and of men and women who are willing to be alongside the sick. We renew that commitment as we turn to the enabling mercy of God.
The Gospel reading we have just heard is set at the early stages of Jesus’ public ministry. We see however that many people had already begun to come together to hear his words. On this occasion, so many had gathered that Jesus decided to ask for help from a local fisherman, Simon, whom he had never met before. Simon was washing the nets of his boat after a night’s work. Jesus asks him if he can use his boat to move a little from the shore so that he can be better seen and heard by the crowd.
Then at the end of his teaching, Jesus turns to this fisherman Simon who will later be called Peter. To Peter’s surprise Jesus says to him unexpectedly: “Put out into the deep water and cast out your nets for a catch”.
Peter was an experienced fisherman and he knew all about the tides and the movements of the shoals of fish and knew that there was very little to be done at that time. After all, he had been out all night and had caught nothing.
Yet Peter discovers something within him which says “This man is a prophet, I can trust him”. Peter thinks to himself: “This man teaches a message which is new; he teaches with authority; perhaps despite all my expertise this man knows something more than I do” and so he answers: “if you say so” and he puts out his nets.
Peter follows the indications of Jesus and to his great surprise his nets quickly become so full that they risk tearing and he has to call his friends to come to his help; and their boats too come to the point of sinking the catch is so great.
Peter is so astonished that he turns to Jesus and falls on his knees and calls himself a sinful man. In front of Jesus, Peter recognises he was wrong and admits his inadequacy and his powerlessness. How does Jesus react to this admission of failure by Peter? Jesus responds by asking even more of him: he calls Peter to leave all things and follow him.
This is a Gospel reading about faith, about how we come to faith and what faith involves. Jesus tells Peter “to cast out into the deep”. It is when we cast out into the deep – like Peter not knowing what is to happen; even when what we are asked seems to contradict what is common wisdom and against the knowledge of our own experience – then something happens and we come to realise deeply that on our own we are inadequate. It is at that moment that the door of faith is opened for us.
It is when we go out into the deep that we leave behind some of our own certainties and take the risk of following Jesus into the unknown. It is then that our lives become so filled with the wisdom of Jesus that it fills our hearts with a superabundance of loving care that we could never have imagined.
On this World Day of the Sick we are called as a Christian community not just to hold a prayer service; we are called as a Church community to become a community that reaches out to the sick who so often suffer as much from loneliness than from their specific illness. We are asked to witness to the care that Jesus had for the sick.
The theme which Pope Francis chose for this World Day of the Sick is: “You received without payment; give without payment” (Mt 10:8). These are words that Jesus used when he sent out his apostles to spread the Gospel. Jesus’ Kingdom will grow not by words alone but above all through acts of self-giving, gratuitous love.
In his Message for World Day of the Sick Pope Francis stresses that caring for the sick requires not just professionalism. It requires a professionalism that is marked by “tenderness, straightforward and simple gestures freely given, like a caress that makes others feel loved”.
The Pope then notes that stresses that: “‘Gift’ means more than simply giving presents: it involves the giving of oneself, and not simply a transfer of property or objects. “Gift” differs from gift-giving because it entails the free gift of self and the desire to build a relationship”. “Gift” is a reflection of how God’s loves us.
We gather around our sick brothers and sisters in faith and surround them with the prayer of a faith community so that they will never feel isolated or alone and without hope. We pray with them with the strength of our faith, but knowing also that it is not our expertise that brings hope and consolation but the presence of Jesus among us who can attain through us what we on our own could not do.
As we reflect on the “if you say so” of Peter we entrust our prayer to Mary, the one who whose “thy will be done” opened the door of salvation for us all. Mary, health of the sick, pray for us. ENDS