The following letter from Bishop Gerald Barnes is to be read at weekend Masses September 5-6.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Peace be with you! As we read and reflect on the life of our Lord Jesus Christ through the Gospels, it is evident that while the Lord ministered to many, there were certain groups of people that were of particular concern to him and were often in his mind and heart. One such group was the sick. We hear this reality in the Gospel of St. Matthew, “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them and he cured their sick” (Mt 14:14).
Each of us is in need of the strength and grace of God to accompany us at each step in the journey of life. Yet, as we know all too well, there are those specific moments and challenging times when confronted with pain and sickness, when the presence of Jesus is needed most. Often it is in those moments of illness that it is easy for one to question his or her faith. The scriptures remind us that our Lord Jesus does not abandon us nor neglect to hear the cry of his people. As a Church we are called to accompany our brothers and sisters precisely at these moments.
I am committed as the Chief Shepherd of this Diocese alongside our faithful priests, deacons, religious, and lay leaders to minister to people in times of sickness. No person should ever be denied the warm and loving embrace of our Lord during times of illness. As missionaries of Jesus, it is our responsibility to minister to our brothers and sisters who are undergoing agony, struggle, and pain.
This is why I designated September 6 as Pastoral Care Sunday. I have asked a dedicated group of ministers and health care providers to assist me in assessing how we as the Church of San Bernardino can better serve the sick in our families and community. During the weekend, the focus is on care for the sick. In addition, I have asked all parishes to provide a brief survey designed to help us to gather the blessings and challenges as we strive to better serve the sick.
As we follow the example of our Lord Jesus, may we also be reminded of the words of our Holy Father Pope Francis who shared, “Occasionally, our world forgets the special value of time spent at the bedside of the sick, since we are in such a rush; caught up as we are in a frenzy of doing, of producing, we forget about giving ourselves freely, taking care of others, being responsible for others. Behind this attitude there is often a lukewarm faith which has forgotten the Lord’s words: “You did it unto me’ (Mt 25:40).” Let us turn to the Holy Spirit to enflame our hearts to serve and care for all those in need most especially for our sick brothers and sisters.
Bishop Gerald R. Barnes