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February 11, 1989

THE HOLY FATHER'S HOMILY AT MASS FOR THE SICK

There is no such thing as a worthless life nor a meaningless human situation

On Saturday, 11 February, the Holy Father celebrated Mass in the Vatican Basilica for the sick and those who participated last year in the Marian pilgrimage to Rome. The following is the text of the homily given by the Pope during this Mass.

 

"Behold, I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream" (Is 66:12).

1. These words, which the Liturgy makes resound in today's Memorial dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes, invite us to return with mind and heart to the Grotto of Massabielle, and to the profound spiritual message that is addressed to all of us. In fact, the spring of water, willed by Our Lady of Lourdes, is an extremely significant symbol and at the same time a real instrument of the marvelous, most abundant and supernatural activity which Mary carries out through the power of God for the benefit of suffering humanity in need of salvation.

The water of the spring of Lourdes, with its thaumaturgic powers is, in a certain sense, an extension of that pool of Siloe, in which, as the Gospel of John says (9:7-11), the man born blind recovered his sight through the agency of the divine power.

Through the spring of Lourdes, therefore, and thanks to the intercession of Mary, we too are able today, so to speak, to experience in a lifelike way--naturally in ways and at times that only God knows and grants--the same thaumaturgic divine power of the Lord Jesus. It is granted to us to have at our disposal--as Saint Pius X had occasion to say precisely with reference to Lourdes (Enc. Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum, 11 Feb. 1904) --"splendid arguments against the unbelief of the men of our times". Indeed, for what reason does the Most Holy Virgin obtain for us, at times, at Lourdes and also elsewhere, extraordinary graces of physical healing, if not to help us to believe or to strengthen our faith in the power which Jesus has to forgive our sins and to lead us to eternal life?

2. For this reason we too today, dearest brothers and sisters, wish to strengthen ourselves in the firm resolve to listen with total docility to Mary's reminders, to receive with profound gratitude the graces she obtains for us, to correspond with generous fidelity to her motherly concerns and to the expectations of her heart.

What the heart of Mary desires is that individual and collective responsibilities be awakened in view of the great problems of life and death, and that each individual assume his own responsibility in the divine plan of salvation, to the realization of which one does not only contribute by working, but also by accepting and offering one's own portion of suffering in humble adherence to the will of God.

What great vistas open up before the gaze of one who believes, what possibilities of giving meaning and value to one's own life, even when the latter, because of illness or through the wear and tear of age, seems no longer to have any! In the light of faith there is no human situation that does not have a meaning, there is no human life that does not have a value. Our Lady at Lourdes came to remind us of this.

3. For this reason, one who has had the experience of Lourdes can sing with Mary the mercies of the Lord: "He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the conceit of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away" (Lk 1:51-53). The whole story of Lourdes is an eloquent illustration of these words of the Magnificat. Lourdes is a prophecy of justice and peace, where there is no room for pride and hardness of heart; indeed, where this hardness is dissolved by the witness of charity, mercy, the serene resistance to evil, human solidarity, sincere and moving generosity.

This religious experience is linked to the witness of a humble and simple girl, but one attentive to the inspirations and movements of Heaven. The message of this little girl has gone all through the world, her courage and her patience have helped it to overcome hard trials, her testimony has convinced the Church, her ardent appeal has transformed a formerly unknown valley into an international center of Eucharistic and Marian spirituality. How could that poor little girl--St Bernadette--have reached such a height, if not through the humble availability with which she entrusted herself, without advancing doubts or placing obstacles, to the designs of divine Providence?

4. You, dear brothers and sisters, who are inserted into that great spiritual movement and who are its heirs and propagators should also be its authentic apostles and its reliable witnesses.

To you, therefore, I appeal to continue in your generous response and, indeed, to make it still more intense, each with the offering of what he possesses: some with your professional preparation, some with the offering of your fraternal assistance, some with the carrying out of the priestly ministry, some above all with the offering of your suffering. The fact is that Christian salvation draws its force more from suffering than from action, however necessary the latter may be. It is not merely a question of "doing" something, but rather of offering ourselves.

To you then goes my affectionate greeting, my thanks for your presence, my applause for the work that you carry out, my admiration for the gift you make of yourselves and my wish that your witness be ever more deeply inspired by the principles of the Gospel, which has made the Good Samaritan an emblematic figure of love towards the neighbor, especially if he is sick or in need.

With all my heart I greet you who are sick, together with those who assist you physically and spiritually, priests, religious, doctors, nurses and stretcher-bearers, and all those who in any way offer their help. I greet the directors of UNITALSI with their collaborators, who again this year organized this meeting in the Vatican Basilica. Finally, I greet the directors of the Roman Office of Pilgrims, to whom belongs the credit for having initiated a few years ago now these annual liturgical meetings, which certainly favor the deepening of ecclesial fellowship in union with the Bishop of Rome; they provide a setting for new incentives in the ever more fervent practice of the works of mercy and of fraternal service to those who suffer and appeal for spiritual solidarity in order to live with greater and better hope.

5. "My spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness" (Lk 1:47-48). These words of Mary contain the whole meaning and value of Christian confidence and joy. God makes man great when he humbles himself before him, recognizes his limitations and accepts the inevitable trials. The very Son of God, by humbling himself, has taught us this law of true greatness.

Mary repeats for us the same lesson. All the saints, though perhaps in different ways, tell us the same thing. This is also the great lesson of Lourdes, the road traveled by Bernadette. Let us follow this, the only safe way.

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