Pope Says Suffering Need Not Exclude Joy

Points to Bond Between the Ill and Priests

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 11, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The faithful can live a joy that does not forget suffering, but rather, in fact, includes it, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope made this reflection today during his homily at a Mass he celebrated in St. Peter’s. Today is the liturgical feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, as well as the World Day of the Sick.

The Holy Father’s homily drew two themes from the Mass readings of the day.

He observed that “the liturgy appropriately makes the Magnificat resonate, the canticle of the Virgin who exalts the wonders of God in the history of salvation: the humble and the indigent, as all those who fear God, experience his mercy, [he] who reverses earthly fortunes and thus demonstrates the holiness of the Creator and Redeemer.”

The Pontiff characterized Mary’s canticle at her meeting with Elizabeth as “a song that expresses the tested faith of generations of men and women who have placed their hope in God and have committed themselves personally, like Mary, to being of help to brothers in need. In the Magnificat we hear the voice of so many men and women saints of charity.”

“Whoever spends a long time near persons who suffer, knows anguish and tears, but also the miracle of joy, fruit of love,” he added.

Church’s prayer

A second theme, Benedict XVI suggested, regards the prayer of the Church for the sick.

“The maternity of the Church is a reflection of the solicitous love of God,” he said. “[…] Like Mary, the Church bears within herself the tragedies of man, and the consolation of God, she keeps them together, in the course of her pilgrimage in history.

“Across the centuries, the Church shows the signs of the love of God, who continues to do great things in humble and simple people. Suffering that is accepted and offered, a sharing that is sincere and free, are these not, perhaps, miracles of love?”

The Holy Father reflected how “we live a joy that does not forget suffering, on the contrary, it includes it.”

“In this way,” he said, “the sick and all the suffering are in the Church not only recipients of attention and care, but first and above all, protagonists of the pilgrimage of faith and hope, witnesses of the prodigies of love, of the paschal joy that flowers from the cross and the resurrection of Christ.”

Sacrament of the sick

Noting how the Letter of James contains the foundation of the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, the Pope said the text also gives “a vision of the role of the sick in the Church: An active role as it ‘provokes,’ so to speak, prayer made with faith.”

“In this Year for Priests,” he said, “I wish to stress the bond between the sick and priests, a sort of alliance, of evangelical ‘complicity.'”

Citing the fifth chapter of James, the Pontiff noted that both the sick and priests have a “task”: “The sick person must ‘call’ the presbyters, and they must respond, to bring upon the experience of sickness the presence and action of the Risen One and of his Spirit.

“And here we can see all the importance of the pastoral care of the sick, the value of which is truly incalculable, because of the immense good it does in the first place to the sick person and to the priest himself, but also to relatives, to friends, to the community and, through hidden and unknown ways, to the whole Church and to the world.

“In fact, when the Word of God speaks of healing, of salvation, of the health of the sick, it understands these concepts in an integral sense, never separating soul and body: A sick person cured by Christ’s prayer, through the Church, is a joy on earth and in heaven, a first fruit of eternal life.”

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: http://www.zenit.org/article-28327?l=english

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