“How is your health, you who are a good Christian?” — “Good, thank God; but also, when I need to, I immediately go to the hospital and, since I belong to the public health system, they see me right away and give me the necessary medicines.” — “It’s a good thing, thank the Lord. But tell me, have you thought about those who don’t have this relationship with the hospital and when they arrive, they have to wait six, seven, eight hours?”
I think of all the people who live this way here in Rome: children and the elderly who do not have the possibility to be seen by a doctor. And Lent is the season to think about them and how we can help these people: “But Father, there are hospitals.” — “Yes, but you have to wait eight hours and then they have you return a week later.” Instead we should be concerned about people in difficulty and ask ourselves: “What are you doing for those people?”
Taking the Word to Heart
Pope Francis continues his reflection on the central passage from Isaiah 58. It fits in well with the parable of the Last Judgment from Matthew’s Gospel. Even allowing for the differences between the Italian health care system and our own, we can recognize all too easily our tendency to settle for having our own needs met without thinking about the needs of those who lack our access to the best in health care and medicine, whether in developing countries or in our own cities and rural areas.
Anytime we thank God (or our employers) for our health coverage, we should also give thought to those who don’t have these basic needs met in any substantial way. At the very least, we can resist the temptation to criticize the poor for what we might perceive as some “entitlement” because they qualify for Medicaid.
But we can do better than that by working through the complex and often vexing issue of reforming our own health care system. While no government program is going to be without its flaws, we have an obligation as Christians to make sure we don’t settle for having merely our own needs met.
Bringing the Word to Life
In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus outlines for us the actions that have come to be known as the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. These have been part of our tradition for centuries, but they seem to move in and out of individual and collective conscience.
Find a list of these works of mercy and decide on several concrete ways you can live them this Lent.
Pope Francis Prays
Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, so that your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.