Vatican City, 8 February 2015 (VIS) – World Day of the Sick will be held on 11 February, liturgical memory of the Virgin of Lourdes, and the Pope, blessing the preparatory initiatives for the day, and in particular the Vigil to take place in Rome on 10 February, dedicated his meditation prior to this Sunday's Angelus prayer to the meaning and value of illness, recalling that Jesus' main activities in his public life were preaching and healing.
“Through preaching He announces the Kingdom of God and through healing He shows that it is close, that the Kingdom of God is in our midst”, said Pope Francis to the faithful gathered at midday in St. Peter's Square, commenting on the Gospel of St. Mark that narrates the healing of Peter's mother-in-law. After the Sabbath was over and the people could leave and bring Him the sick, He healed a multitude of people afflicted by every kind of malady: physical, mental, spiritual.
“Having come to earth to announce and fulfil the salvation of every person and of all mankind, Jesus shows a particular predilection for those who are wounded in body and spirit: the poor, sinners, the possessed, the sick, the marginalised. He thus reveals Himself has a physician of both body and soul, the good Samaritan of humanity. Jesus' healing of the sick invites us to reflect on the meaning and value of sickness”.
The salvific work of Christ “does not come to an end with His person and the arc of His earthly life; it continues through the Church, sacrament of love and of the tenderness of God for mankind. Sending his disciples on their mission, Jesus confers upon them a dual mandate: to announce the Gospel of salvation and to heal the sick. Faithful to this teaching, the Church has always considered the care of the sick to be an integral part of her mission”.
The Pope emphasised Jesus' warning from the Gospel of St. Matthew - “The poor and the suffering you will always have with you” - and affirmed that “the Church continually finds them on her path, considering the sick as a privileged way to encounter Christ, to welcome and serve Him. To care for a sick person, to welcome him and serve him is to serve Christ. The sick are Christ's flesh”.
In our times, too, despite the many advances in science, “the inner and physical suffering of people raises serious questions on the meaning of sickness, pain and on the reasons for death. These are existential questions, to which the pastoral action of the Church should respond in the light of faith, keeping before our eyes the Cross, in which there appears the entire salvific mystery of God the Father, who out of love for mankind did not spare his only Son. Therefore, each one of us is called to bring the light of the Gospel and the strength of grace to those who suffer and to those who assist them – family members, doctors, nurses – so that service to the sick may be carried out with ever increasing humanity, generous dedication, evangelical love, and tenderness. The Mother Church, through our hands, caresses us in our sufferings, heals our wounds, and does so with a mother's tenderness”.