“QUALITY of life” proponents who think the gravely ill lead lives not worth living are peddling a great lie, Pope Francis said in a message for the 2015 World Day of the Sick.
Criticising approaches that devalued human lives, especially the lives of those who suffered from serious illness, Pope Francis highlighted the importance of offering increased care and concern instead, urging people to demonstrate a compassion that did not judge and that “does not demand conversion”.
The World Day of the Sick is celebrated annually on February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Vatican released the text of the papal message on December 30.
“How great a lie,” he wrote, “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.”
Pope Francis invited people to see the world and those who were sick or in need of care with “the wisdom of the heart”, which was pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, merciful, certain and sincere.
“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,” he wrote.
Having “wisdom of the heart” meant going out of oneself and serving others with compassion and without judgment – unlike those who, in the biblical story of Job, who thought Job’s misfortune “was a punishment from God for his sins”, the Pope said in his message.
“True charity is a sharing which does not judge, which 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,” he wrote.
He said an “effective charity and a compassion which understands, assists and promotes” sprang from the Church’s missionary nature, and reflected the “absolute priority” of “going forth from ourselves toward our brothers and sisters”.
Leading a hectic or busy life made people forget about the importance of generously serving and being responsible for others, he wrote.
“Behind this attitude, there is often a lukewarm faith,” he said, “which has forgotten the Lord’s words” in the Gospel of Matthew that “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me”.
Spending time with the sick and infirm “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 it was a “great path of sanctification”.
The Pope recognised the enormous difficulties and burdens associated with offering long-term care to the ill, but he underlined how it offered a special way to get closer to God and support the Church’s mission.
“With lively faith let us 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,” the Pope wrote.