VATICAN CITY, JAN. 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a meditation jointly prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches for the sixth day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The week continues through Sunday, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle. The theme for 2009 is “That They May Become One in Your Hand” (Ezekiel 37:17).
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Christians Face-to-Face With Disease and Suffering
1 Kings 20:1-6 — “Remember me, O Lord!”
Psalm 22:1-11 — “Why have you forsaken me?”
James 5:13-15 — “The prayer of faith will save the sick”
Mark 10:46-52 — “Jesus asked: What do you want me to do for you?”
How often Jesus encounters the sick and is willing to heal them! Common to all our still separated churches is the awareness of our Lord’s compassion for the sick. Christians have always followed his example, by healing the sick, building hospitals, dispensaries, organizing medical missions and caring not only for the souls but also the bodies of God’s children.
This is not such an obvious response; the healthy tend to take health for granted and forget those who cannot take part in the regular life of the community because they are sick or handicapped. And the sick? They may feel cut off from God, his presence, blessing and healing power.
The deep-rooted faith of Hezekiah supports him through sickness. In a time of sorrow, he finds words to remind God of his grace. Yes, those who are suffering might even use words from the Bible to cry out or struggle with God: Why have you forsaken me? When an honest relationship with God is well established, grounded in language of faithfulness and thankfulness in good times, it creates space also for a language to express sorrow, pain or anger in prayer when necessary.
The sick are not objects and not only at the receiving end of care; rather, they are subjects of faith, as the disciples must learn in the story of the gospel of Mark. The disciples want to continue directly along their way with Jesus; the sick man on the edge of the crowd is ignored. When he cries out, it is a diversion from their goal. We are used to caring for the sick, but we are not so used to their crying loudly and disturbing us. Their cries today may be for affordable medicine in poor countries, which touches the question of patents and profits. The disciples who wanted to prevent the blind man getting near Jesus have to become the messengers of the Lord’s rather different and caring response: Come, he is calling you.
It is only when the disciples bring the sick man to Jesus that they come to understand what Jesus wants: to take time to meet and talk with the sick man, asking what he wants and needs. A healing community can grow when the sick experience the presence of God through a mutual relationship with their sisters and brothers in Christ.
God, listen to people when they cry to you in sickness and pain. May the healthy thank you for their wellbeing, And may they serve the sick with loving hearts and open hands. God, let all of us live in your grace and providence, becoming a truly healing community and praising you together. Amen.
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On the Net:
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/