Here we see something important about the “style” of God.
The first reading on Sunday, from the Book of Job, starts off with the sad lament, “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?”
The voice of Job, the pope said, “is once again the interpreter our human condition, so lofty in dignity – our human condition, the loftiest in dignity – and at the same time so fragile. In the face of this reality, the question ‘why?’ always arises in the heart.”
The Holy Father said that Jesus responds to this question, “not with an explanation,” but instead, “with a loving presence that bends down, that takes by the hand and lifts up, as he did with Peter’s mother-in-law (cf. Mk 1:31). Bending down to lift up the other.”
The pope repeated a popular adage, that the only legitimate way to look down on a person is with a hand outstretched to help them up.
This is the only way, he said, “And this is the mission that Jesus entrusted to the Church. The Son of God manifests his Lordship not ‘from top down,’ not from a distance, but in bending down, stretching out his hand; he manifests his Lordship in closeness, in tenderness, in compassion. Closeness, tenderness, compassion are the style of God. God draws near, and he draws near with tenderness and compassion. How many times in the Gospel do we read, before a health problem or any problem: ‘he had compassion.’”
“Jesus’ compassion, God’s closeness in Jesus, is the style of God,” Francis said.
Not an option
This reflection was accompanied by the pope’s reminding that care for the sick is an essential part of the Church’s mission, as an extension of Christ’s mission on earth.
The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is the first physical healing recounted by Mark: the woman is in bed with a fever; Jesus’ attitude and gesture toward her are emblematic: “he came and took her by the hand” (v. 31), the Evangelist notes. There is so much tenderness in this simple act, which seems almost natural: “the fever left her; and she served them” (ibid.). Jesus’ healing power meets no resistance; and the person healed resumes her normal life, immediately thinking of others and not of herself – and this is significant; it is the sign of true “health!”
Jesus’ predilection for people suffering in body and spirit is present from the very beginning, the pope said.
“His disciples were eyewitnesses to this; they saw this and then witnessed to it. But Jesus did not want just spectators of his mission: he involved them; he sent them; he also gave them the power to heal the sick and cast out demons (cf. Mt 10:1; Mk 6:7). And this has continued without interruption in the life of the Church, up to today.”
Thus, said the pope, “Taking care of the sick of every kind is not an ‘optional activity’ for the Church, no! It is not something extra, no. Taking care of the sick of every kind is an integral part of the Church’s mission, as it was for Jesus. […] The reality that we are experiencing throughout the world due to the pandemic makes this message, this essential mission of the Church, particularly relevant.”