On Sickness and God's Healing Love

"We Are Made for Life"

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today the Gospel (cf. Mark 1:29-39) -- in direct continuation with last Sunday -- presents us with Jesus, who after having preached on the Sabbath in the synagogue of Capernaum, cured many ill people, beginning with Simon's mother-in-law. Entering his house, he found her in bed with a fever and immediately, taking her by the hand, he healed her and had her get up. After sunset, he healed a multitude of people afflicted with all sorts of ills.

The experience of the healing of the sick occupies a good portion of the public mission of Christ and it invites us once again to reflect on the meaning and value of illness in every situation in which the human being can find himself. This opportunity comes also because of the World Day of the Sick, which we will celebrate next Wednesday, Feb. 11, liturgical memorial of the Virgin Mary of Lourdes.

Despite the fact that illness is part of human existence, we never manage to get used to it, not only because sometimes it comes to be burdensome and grave, but essentially because we are made for life, for complete life. Precisely our "internal instinct" makes us think of God as plenitude of life, and even more, as eternal and perfect Life. When we are tested by sickness and our prayers seem in vain, doubt wells up in us and, filled with anguish, we ask ourselves: What is God's will?

It is precisely to this question that we find an answer in the Gospel. For example, in the passage of today we read: "He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him" (Mark 1:34). In another passage from St. Matthew, it says: "He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people" (Matthew 4:23).

Jesus does not leave room for doubt: God -- whose face he himself has revealed -- is the God of life, who frees us from all evil. The signs of this, his power of love are the healings that he carries out: He thus shows that the Kingdom of God is near, restoring men and women to their full integrity in spirit and body. I refer to these healings as signs: They guide toward the message of Christ, they guide us toward God and make us understand that man's truest and deepest illness is the absence of God, who is the fount of truth and love. And only reconciliation with God can give us true healing, true life, because a life without love and without truth would not be a true life. The Kingdom of God is precisely the presence of truth and love, and thus it is healing in the depths of our being.

Thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, the work of Jesus is prolonged in the mission of the Church. Through the sacraments, it is Christ who communicates his life to the multitude of brothers and sisters, as he cures and comforts innumerable sick people through so many activities of health care service that Christian communities promote with fraternal charity, thereby showing the face of God, his love. It is true: How many Christians all over the world -- priests, religious and laypeople -- have given and continue giving their hands, eyes and hearts to Christ, true physician of bodies and souls!

Let us pray for all the ill, especially for those who are most grave, and who can in no way take care of themselves, but depend entirely on the care of others; may every one of them be able to experience, in the solicitude of those who are near to them, the power of the love of God and the richness of his grace that saves us. Mary, health of the sick, pray for us.

[After praying the Angelus, he said:]

In these weeks, strong political tensions are taking place in Madagascar, which have also provoked popular disturbances. Because of this, the bishops of the island have convoked for today a day of prayer for national reconciliation and social justice. Intensely concerned by the particularly critical moment that the country is going through, I invite you to unite yourselves to the Catholics of Madagascar to entrust to the Lord those who have died in the manifestations and to invoke from him, through the intercession of Most Holy Mary, the return of harmony of thought, social tranquility and civil co-existence.

As I said just a moment ago, next Feb. 11, memorial of the Virgin Mary of Lourdes, the World Day of the Sick is celebrated. In the afternoon, I will meet with the sick and other pilgrims in St. Peter's Basilica, after the holy Mass that the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, Cardinal Lozano Barragán, will preside over. From now, I assure my special blessing to all the sick, the health care workers and the volunteers of every part of the world.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Pope then greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today including those from the Saint Patrick's Evangelization school in London. Today's Gospel reminds us of the duty to bring Christ's Good News to all the world. May your time in Rome be filled with joy and deepen your resolve to draw others to our Lord and his love. God bless you all!

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