How many times have we uttered it because we were upset? In how many instances have we heard it said by others? I don’t care!
Care! This buzzword. Or, rather, this catchy word. Yes! It is a catchy word not simply because it is popular or divulged in, practically, every environment. The word care carries immense responsibility with it. And, for that matter, it is a frightening word since it entails hard work and can cause very painful decisions in order to be maintained.
It is precisely in this perspective that I consider Pope Francis’s message for the 54th World Day of Peace, celebrated on January 1, 2021, A culture of care as a path to peace. We all know that care is badly needed. The irony is that the more we say to each other, take care, the more we are affirming how much we really lack this care. Who of us is not accustomed with the acronym TLV, that is Tender Loving Care? Thus, for care to be really care it needs to be tender and loving. Obviously, loving in the sense of having both charity in truth, Caritas in veritate, to care!
Unquestionably, the year 2020, marked as it was by the catastrophic Covid-19 pandemic, which further aggravated other crises like the climate, food, and the economy and migration, called for a huge effort to show care. The Holy Father lovingly recognizes the heroic sacrifices which people like physicians and nurses, pharmacists, researchers, volunteers, chaplains and the personnel of hospitals and healthcare centres … have made, and are continuing to make, great sacrifices to be present to the sick, to alleviate their sufferings and to save their lives (no.1). Unfortunately others could not keep affronting this astronomical challenge and have succumbed on the way. Many of these heroes who showed so much care along the way just died along the process. Notwithstanding so much love and solidarity on one part, the Pope sadly points out that we have also seen a surge in various forms of nationalism, racism and xenophobia, and wars and conflicts that bring only death and destruction in their wake (no.1). Confronted with such an ironic and contradictory situation Pope Francis spared no efforts to choose as this year’s message for the World Day of Peace the title: A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace. The Pope said that a culture of care is, in fact, a way to combat the culture of indifference, waste and confrontation so prevalent in our time (no.1).
The origin of our human calling to care for one another is to be found in God the Creator. It was God who entrusts the garden “planted in Eden” (cf. Gen 2:8) to Adam’s care, to “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15) (no.2). The Genesis account of the creation of man and woman tells us alot about the trust God placed in him by making him master and guardian of all creation (no.2).
And this trust of God in the human being he lovingly created represents another essential aspect about God: As the Creator God is the model of real caring. God cares for Adam, Eve and their children, particularly Cain. Contrary to man’s mentality, what counts for God is the inviolable dignity of the person (no.3); the preservation of his creation’s harmony; and his concern for the poor and the weakest members (no.3).
God’s care has been incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ. Thus, Jesus’ life and ministry represent the supreme revelation of the Father’s love for humanity (cf. Jn 3:16) (no.4). As a matter of fact, in his compassion, Christ drew near to the sick in body and spirit, and brought them healing; he pardoned sinners and gave them new life. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:11-18; Ezek 34:1-31). He is the Good Samaritan who stoops to help the injured man, binds his wounds and cares for him (cf. Lk 10:30-37). Moreover, at the culmination of his mission, Jesus gave the ultimate proof of his care for us by offering himself on the cross to set us free from the slavery of sin and death. By the sacrificial gift of his life, he opened for us the path of love (no.4).
But Jesus’ care is personified in the Church, the community of believers. As Pope Francis tells us, Jesus’ followers strove to make their community a welcoming home, concerned for every human need and ready to care for those most in need. It became customary to make voluntary offerings in order to feed the poor, bury the dead and care for orphans, the elderly and victims of disasters like shipwrecks (no.5). Throughout the centuries the Church created many institutions for the relief of every human need: hospitals, poor houses, orphanages, foundling homes, shelters for travelers … (no.5). The guiding principles of the Church’s social doctrine as the foundation for a culture of care are: (1) care as promotion of the dignity and rights of each person; (2) care for the common good; (3) care through solidarity; (4) care and protection of creation.
But while it is beautiful and beneficial that government leaders and those of international organizations, business leaders, scientists, communicators and educators, to take up these principles as a “compass” capable of pointing out a common direction and ensuring “a more humane future” (no.7) it is essential that this common path be transformed into the priceless enterprise of educating for a culture of care. Families, schools and universities, communications media, and religious leaders have the duty of promoting a culture of care [which] calls for a process of education (no.8) in order that more open and inclusive education, involving patient listening, constructive dialogue and better mutual understanding be included at every life level (no.8).
Let us pray and work together so that the culture of care thus calls for a common, supportive and inclusive commitment to protecting and promoting the dignity and good of all, a willingness to show care and compassion, to work for reconciliation and healing, and to advance mutual respect and acceptance be possible and operable amongst us (no.9). As Pope Francis wisely exhorted at the end of his message, may we strive daily, in concrete and practical ways, “to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another” (no.9). The Holy Father’s message for the World Day of Peace 2021 openly asserts that it is the culture of care that is the right mindset we all should adopt and live by if we really want the fraternal living of the human race.