Faith in the love of Jesus Christ can overcome the suffering of long-term illness, Pope Benedict XVI said in his Sunday Angelus address Feb. 5.
Just as Jesus faced the devil “with the power of love that was from the Father,” the Pope explained, so also a sick person can “overcome and defeat the test of disease with a heart immersed in the love of God.”
Indeed, he noted, “we all know people who have endured terrible suffering because God gave them a deep serenity.”
Pope Benedict addressed his remarks to thousands of pilgrims braving the cold and snow in St. Peter’s Square. From the window of the papal apartments, he reflected on the day’s Gospel, in which Jesus “healed many who were sick with various diseases” and “cast out many demons.”
He observed how the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all describe “freedom from disease and illness of any kind, together with preaching, as the main activities of Jesus in his public life.”
While disease is “a sign of the evil in the world and in man,” Christ’s healings show that “the Kingdom of God is near,” and they serve as “a foretaste of his victory obtained by his death and resurrection.”
The Pope recognized that if healing does not arrive swiftly and suffering is prolonged, those who are sick “can remain crushed, isolated,” and even “depressed and dehumanized.”
Appropriate medical treatment is in order, and, as the Pope pointed out, “medicine in recent decades has made great strides.”
But he also noted that the “Word of God” teaches “a decisive attitude” toward illness, an attitude which is “that of the faith.”
Even in the face of death, “faith can make possible what is humanly impossible.”
“But faith in what?” the Pope asked, answering that faith in God’s love “is the true answer, which radically defeats evil.”
As an example of how to bear illness through the love of God, Pope Benedict highlighted the life and death of Blessed Chiara Badano, an Italian teenager who died in 1990 from an aggressive and painful bone cancer.
Although she was struck “in the bloom of youth,” those who visited her during her illness saw that she manifested “light and trust” through her love for Christ.
The Pope concluded by noting that next Saturday, Feb. 11, is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and also the World Day of the Sick.
On that day, he suggested, believers should imitate people of Jesus’ time and “spiritually present to him all the sick people, confident that he wants to and can heal,” while also invoking the intercession of the Virgin Mary, “especially in situations of immense suffering and abandonment.”
“Mary, Health of the Sick,” he declared, “pray for us!”