There can be no doubt that concern for the sick was uppermost in the mind and heart of Christ. Physical healing, too, was one of the pre-eminent signs of the beginning of that new era in salvation history which Jesus brought about through his life, death, and resurrection. Yet, the Lord’s earthly mission went far beyond the blessings which physical healing brought to the afflicted. His words and deeds reached the deepest level of human existence and, for those who believed that He was the Messiah, those actions brought peace to troubled minds and hope to the despairing heart.
No wonder that Christ’s “preferential love for the sick” (CCC, n. 1503) has made the Church and priests, deacons, vowed religious and laity eager to imitate Jesus in devoting themselves to caring for the sick. While the term pastoral care has multiple meanings, in a healthcare or institutional setting, it encompasses the provision of sacramental, spiritual, and emotional care, as well as other interventions to aid the sick and hospitalized, such as active listening and counseling.
Compassion is the hallmark of pastoral care – to be emotionally moved by those who suffer and to not only suffer with them, but to do whatever is humanly possible to help relieve their suffering. This identification with the sick and suffering, then, is Christ-like and, as such, pastoral care becomes holy and noble work.