VATICAN CITY, JUNE 2, 2004 ( Faith enables one to turn sickness and even betrayal by friends into a path of "interior freedom," says John Paul II.

The Pope made that point at today's general audience, in St. Peter's Square, which he dedicated to a reflection on Psalm 40(41). Jesus himself quoted the Psalm during the Last Supper.

The prayer is expressed by "a person who is certainly suffering because of his sickness but above all suffers because of the cruel irony of his enemies and even because of the betrayal of a friend," the Holy Father explained.

"Suffering in itself can conceal a secret value and become a path of purification, of interior freedom, of enrichment of the soul," he said.

"It invites one to overcome superficiality, vanity, egoism, sin, and to entrust oneself more intensely to God and his salvific will," the Pope added.

Psalm 40(41) describes the experience of "many humbled poor, condemned to be alone and to feel themselves a burden to the very members of their family. And if, perhaps, they receive a word of consolation, they perceive immediately its false and hypocritical tone," he noted.

"The bitterness is profound, when the one who strikes is the friend whom one trusted," John Paul II said when meditating on this biblical poetic composition. "In our praying man resounds the voice of a throng of people forgotten and humiliated in their infirmity and weakness, including by those who should have supported them."

Yet, the Psalm does not end on a gloomy note. "The one praying is certain that God will appear on his horizon, revealing his love once again. He will offer him support and take the infirm in his arms," the Pope said.

John Paul II's reflection was part of his series of commentaries on the Psalms and canticles that form part of the Liturgy of Vespers, the evening prayer of the Church. They may be consulted in the Wednesday's Audience section of ZENIT's Web page.