Facing Sickness by Trusting in the Goodness of God
In his midday address following the Angelus on Sunday, 5 February, Pope Benedict linked the readings of Sunday to World Day of the Sick, which falls on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, Saturday 11 February.
“The four Evangelists”, he said, “all agree that, along with preaching, healing from sickness and infirmity of all kinds constituted the main activity of Jesus during His public life. … Jesus Christ came to defeat evil at the very root, and the healings were an anticipation of the victory He achieved through death and resurrection.
“One day Jesus said: ‘those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick’,” the Holy Father added. “On that occasion He was referring to sinners, whom He had come to call and to save, yet it is nonetheless true that sickness is a typically human condition wherein we experience our lack of self-sufficiency, our need of others. In this context we could say, paradoxically, that sickness can be a ‘healthy’ moment in which to receive attention from others and to give attention to them! Yet it is still a trial, and can become long and difficult. When healing does not come and suffering continues, we can become crushed and isolated, our lives sink and become dehumanised. How should we react to this attack of evil? Certainly with the appropriate cures – over recent decades medicine has made enormous progress for which we are grateful – but the Word of God teaches us that there is a decisive and basic attitude with which to face sickness: faith in God and in His goodness.”
Pope Benedict went on: “Even in the face of death, faith can make possible what is humanly impossible. But faith in what? In the love of God! This is the true response which radically defeats evil. … We all know people who have borne terrible suffering because God gave them profound serenity. I think of the recent example of Blessed Chiara Badano, who died in the flower of her youth because of a terrible illness. When people went to visit her, they received light and faith from her! Yet nonetheless, when we are sick we all need human warmth. What sick people need even more than words is serene and sincere proximity.”
The Holy Father concluded by recalling that 11 February, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, also marks the World Day of the Sick. “Let us too act like the people who lived in Jesus’ time”, he said. “Let us spiritually present all sick people to Him, trusting in His desire and power to heal them. And let us invoke the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, especially upon people undergoing the most extreme forms of suffering and abandonment.”
The Pope also reminded French-speaking pilgrims of next Saturday’s Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick. “Together with all those who are facing sickness, let us ask God to grant us the grace of trusting patience. With the help of Our Lady of Lourdes and of St. Bernadette, may we discover that true happiness exists only in God.” Finally, speaking to Polish pilgrims he said: “I ask God that sick people may be attended with care by their relatives, health care workers and all men and women of good will. May human suffering always be surrounded by love.”
The full text of the Pope’s Message can be viewed here.