Spirituality is a lifestyle or a way of living that is in line with the demands of the Gospel. To speak about spirituality does not mean to speak about a part of life: it means to speak about the whole of life. It means speaking about the presence of the Lord in our lives and in the Christian community. We can say that the spirituality of an agent of pastoral care in health involves living the life of the Spirit of the merciful Jesus who passed by doing good, treating and healing every infirmity and suffering.
Therefore, to live one’s relationship with God in service to those who suffer is an expression of a very special way of living the life of the Spirit.
God’s love for us is a gratuitous and unconditional love that leads us to communicate it to those who surround us, and, in a special way, to all those people who suffer. Aparecida invites us to make our communities centres for the irradiation of life in Christ so that the world may believe (cf. Aparecida, n. 362).
Jesus asks us to be merciful like his Father and through his life he clearly points out the pathway to us. He is deeply moved in front of the pain and suffering of men. To live the life according to the spirit of mercy means to make the love and tenderness of God present to those people who suffer through approaches, actions and words that heal (cf. Lk 6:36).
One is dealing here with a spirituality that generates hope and life. The God who raised Jesus from the dead is a God who offers life where men cause death. A pastoral worker is called to be a paschal presence at the side of those who suffer. To live like men and women who have risen again means to direct our lives towards a creative love and a solidarity that generates life. Our nearness and our accompanying will be a pathway of hope and resurrection.
This profound conviction gives to our service to the sick a dimension of worship: it is the sacrament of presence; it is when service becomes contemplation. It is a deep relationship in the Lord that leads us to ‘see Christ in the sick and to be Christ for the sick’. The Gospel of Saint Matthew becomes for us a permanent source of spirituality: ‘Then he will answer, “In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me”’(cf. Mt 25:31-46).
The fact of discovering Christ in the sick calls us to be attentive to his Word, to nourish ourselves with the bread of life, and to have a contemplative and prayerful approach. Without this reference to the Lord and his Word, our proclaiming would lose its horizon and its efficacy. We are called to conjoin mysticism and commitment, contemplation and action.
This is an embodied spirituality that requires an approach of readiness to help and openness to listening to troubles, problems, anxieties, sufferings and hopes. It is a spirituality that is lived starting with daily life: we are called to justify our hope, to be the light and the salt of the earth.
The programme of the Good Samaritan: ‘a heart that sees’. This heart sees where there is a need for love and acts accordingly (Deus caritas est, n. 31).
John Paul II tells us that the Good Samaritan is a man who:
- Stays: stops, finds space and time, does not pass by, is ready to change his plans, and is not indifferent (cf. Salvifici doloris, n. 22).
- Draws near: to listen, to understand, to share and to accompany.
- Gives of himself: makes himself a gift, takes responsibility for others and takes care of them, makes himself a neighbour, and bandages wounds with oil and wine. We should make room in our hearts for our brothers and sisters so that they feel at home. We should be a silent and affectionate companion, a maternal presence of the Church who envelops others in her tenderness and strengthens hearts.
An agent of pastoral care in health when listening to the Word of the Lord learns to read, starting with faith, the experience of suffering and pain; he or she learns to discover the action of God and to live it with hope. He or she has learnt that service to the sick cannot be performed without sacrifice and forgoing things. Here is born the strength to abandon himself to herself to the Lord, the capacity to give without expecting anything in return, the overcoming of repugnance, knowing how to understand the most varied situations, openness towards and readiness to help everyone, sensitivity, and the gift of free giving.
An agent of pastoral care in health is a contemplative person, a person of silence and of prayer. He or she knows how to draw near to another with delicacy and respect for the mystery of suffering, not to explain it or to defend God but to bear witness to the presence of the Lord who loves; he or she is supportive and accompanies. He or she embodies gospel values such as understanding, mercy, love, dedication and joy. Following the example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, he or she is faithful to the mission of communicating life and placing himself or herself at the service of life. Benedict XVI invites us to contemplate the saints of charity, the bringers of light into history; to make service worship that is pleasing to God; and to celebrate the liturgy of charity (cf. Aparecida, n. 353; Deus caritas est, n. 40).
Mary, the Mother of God, is a model of care and she was ‘engaged in a service of charity to her cousin Elizabeth, with whom she remained for “about three months” (1:56) so as to assist her in the final phase of her pregnancy…Mary is a woman who loves…We see it in the delicacy with which she recognizes the need of the spouses at Cana and makes it known to Jesus’ (Deus caritas est, n. 41). The Mother’s hour will come only with the Cross, which will be Jesus’ true hour. When the disciples flee, Mary will remain beneath the Cross (cf. Jn 19:25-27). The woman of hope teaches us to be at the side of those who suffer and to accompany them with the courage and the tenderness of a mother.