“Ensuring that everyone can obtain the care they need, when they need it, right in the heart of the community,” is a theme of World Health Day, which is observed by the World Health Organization on April 7. This week’s clergy discuss the role of the faithful in caring for the sick. .
Rabbi Mendy Goldberg
Lubavitch of the East End
People must be concerned about their souls, should care for their bodies and the world at large. We have made a world that brings sickness. That same world must now bring life. Judaism emphasizes the importance of caring for yourself as your body belongs to God, who gave it to you to care for, as a vehicle to carry your soul through life. It is your duty to eat well, to rest and to treat your body with respect in every way; it is part of your responsibility to God. There is a Hasidic saying that “a small hole in your body creates a huge gap in your soul.”
We realize that when we are healthy, we can concentrate on family and work and other things that are important to us. But most significantly, a healthy body allows you to concentrate on your soul, enabling you to fulfill your divine mission in this world and live a meaningful life. This is true, as well, of the need to tend and help the unwell. Our sages tell us that the mitzvah of bikur cholim, visiting the sick and caring for them, helps in their healing process. So the next time you care for someone who is not well and feel re-energized, realize that you have just re-energized a precious piece of God’s property. Whether you are eating a healthy meal or caring for the sick, you are investing in a valuable commodity.
The Rev. Leandra T. Lambert
Curate, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, East Hampton
The sick among us are dear to the heart of God. The gospel narratives detail Jesus’ movement among us — always with an eye to the cross (and indeed beyond the cross, by his resurrection and ascension to glory). Throughout his ministry, as Jesus encountered the sick, Scripture records that he was moved with compassion and healed them. Additionally, when Jesus sent his disciples on a mission, it was to proclaim the arrival of the Kingdom of God and to heal.
As we care for the sick, we manifest Jesus. Our attention to the sick is another means through which the Jesus of history becomes the Christ of faith. In the early days of the church, the body of believers faithfully healed the sick in the name of Jesus. Whether the sickness is in the body, mind or spirit, the church continues the tradition of calling on the elders to pray and anoint the sick in the name of the Lord. To follow in the footsteps of Jesus is to be moved with compassion for the sick, surrounding them with healing prayer and visiting them, understanding that in caring for the sick, we care for Christ himself.
Isma H. Chaudhry
Board of trustees chair, Islamic Center of Long Island, Westbury
Islam teaches that every soul that comes to this world is vulnerable to sickness and death. In the Muslim tradition the holy scripture Al Quran and the teachings of prophet Muhammad lay emphasis on human dealings, fostering compassion and empathy. The basic principles of Islam are founded on individual and collective morality and responsibility toward fellow humans, Muslim or non-Muslim.
Visiting and taking care of someone who is sick is obligatory for Muslims. On numerous occasions the prophet Muhammad illuminated the virtues of visiting the sick by stating that the angels send blessings on anyone who visits and helps to ease the anguish of a person suffering from an illness. Islam stresses the importance of etiquette for these visits. One should not be a burden to the individual or the family; the visit should be timed so as not to interfere with the person’s rest; and the dignity of the individual who is ill should not be compromised by even unintentional insensitivity and crudeness.
The Prophet said: “On the Day of Resurrection, God the Mighty and Majestic will say: ‘O child of Adam! I became sick and you did not visit me!’ The person will say, ‘O Lord, how can I visit you and you are the Lord of all that Exists!’ God will say, ‘Did you not know that my slave ‘so and so’ became sick, and you did not visit him? Did you not know that if you visited him, you would have found me with him?’ ” (Sahih Muslim Hadith Collection)
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