VATICAN CITY, DEC. 5, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II initiated preparations for the 150th anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception with his message for the 2004 World Day of the Sick.
The World Day, on Feb. 11, will be focused on the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, where the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous and told her that she, the Mother of God, is the “Immaculate Conception.”
With the apostolic constitution “Ineffabilis Deus,” of Dec. 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX stated that “God has revealed the doctrine that affirms that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, by a particular grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved from all stain of original sin from the first instant of her conception.”
John Paul II in his message for the forthcoming World Day of the Sick states: “The miracle of the Immaculate Conception reminds believers of a fundamental truth: It is only possible to attain salvation by participating with docility in the plan of the Father, who willed to redeem the world through the death and resurrection of his only-begotten Son.”
“With the Immaculate Conception of Mary began the great work of redemption, which took place with the precious blood of Christ,” the text adds. “In him every person is called to fulfillment in the perfection of holiness.”
It continues: “From the paradox of the cross stems the answer to our most troubling questions. Christ suffers for us: He takes upon himself the sufferings of all and redeems them. Christ suffers with us, giving us the possibility to share our sufferings with him. Human suffering, united to Christ’s, becomes a means of salvation.”
“Sorrow, accepted in faith, becomes a door to enter into the mystery of the Lord’s redeeming suffering. A suffering which no longer takes away peace and happiness, as it is enlightened by the radiance of the resurrection,” the Pope writes.
“If Jesus is the source of life that conquers death, Mary is the affectionate Mother who comes to meet her children’s expectations, obtaining for them the salvation of soul and body,” the papal message adds, made public this week by the Vatican press office.
“This is the message that the Shrine of Lourdes constantly presents to devotees and pilgrims,” the message says. “This is also the meaning of the physical and spiritual healings that take place in the grotto of Massabielle,” where Mary appeared on Feb. 11, 1858.