28th Sunday of Ordinary Time – 13th October
Even in an age of greater levels of medical care, there can still be a feeling that sickness isolates us from the rest of the community. We start to recognise that our priorities shift and that we start to wonder how this will change the way we live and interact with others. Much has been done to recognise that the way we live with an illness is not just about the treatment provided but the way that the treatment allows the person to be treated with dignity and engaged in the healing process. We are not just worked on as though we are a car going in for a service but rather as a person who has inherent worth which allows them to discover who they are called to become even in the midst of suffering.
This is part of our prayer which deeply engages with who we are and who we wish to become. There is a desire for wholeness and integration which helps a person to recognise who they are in spite of the suffering they may experience. There is a call to holiness which does not just endure suffering but which seeks to assist the person not to become their illness or condition. Just as we see people being labelled as lepers causing them to be excluded from the heart of a community we need to see the person not just their illness. Once we actually see them they discover that even in the midst of great suffering they can still be loved and accompanied as a person with inherent dignity and worth.
This is a call where the gifts of both healing and mercy come to the fore because they seek to help the person discover God’s compassionate face through human hands. They help people to discover that even in the most difficult circumstances that they can experience the healing touch present in a person’s expertise but also in their attitudes. Far from being isolated from the community, they are surrounded by people who look out for their welfare and wellbeing. In being accompanied they discover their true identity in God who seeks them out with grace and mercy. Our whole system of welfare is based on this fundamental dignity of the human person which sees people created in God’s image and likeness. This changes how we see ourselves and see others in great suffering as people who we hold in prayer.
Fr. John Armstrong