Catholic Christians have a responsibility to preserve their health. Life is a generous gift from God. The gift of life is a treasure that we can accept or refuse. Taking care of our health is part of God’s will for us and a basic way to show our gratitude to God. Staying well contributes to our freedom – from the obvious physical restraints of poor health but also the mental preoccupations that come with illness. A good incentive to preserve our health is the desire to serve God and complete one’s duties, especially for members of a family and those whom God’s providence has placed close to us. Trying to stay well is a way of caring for one’s self, loving neighbor and being civic minded. In other words, it is a virtue. However, caring for self can go to an extreme. In today’s body-conscious society, this often happens when one is not focused on the supernatural destiny awaiting us. Inordinate preoccupation with health is an obstacle which can lead to self-absorption. If people remain dedicated to God first, then it should follow that they will take sufficient care of their health without extremes. So, in these times of pandemic, social distancing is virtuous, godly and charitable to ourselves and others.
It is inevitable that a number of sick people will have to live with some suffering no matter what they do for themselves. There are times when recovery is out of reach. Suffering is part of our human condition. To help us through painful times, Jesus teaches us by word and example. He tells us to pick up our cross and follow him. He also shows us the way by freely accepting his passion and death on a cross.
In many cases, health and sickness are no accident. People can make choices that increase their chances of falling ill, staying healthy or recovering their health. It definitely appears that a variety of health problems are caused by poor eating, lack of sufficient exercise, abuse of alcohol and drugs and irresponsible sexual behavior. In these days of pandemic, our government has told us how to stay safe in infectious times – stay at home, wash hands and observe social distancing.
Caring for the sick is a virtue related to staying well. Despite best efforts to stay well, many fall sick. Those who work in health care exhibit great virtue in their dedication to the sick and dying. Christ’s love is our greatest inspiration for service to the sick. These healthcare workers are instruments of grace in the lives of others. Loving care for the sick is a ministry to them as they offer loving service to the sick in an effort to restore them to health.
Adapted from J. Brian Benestad, PhD