In Loreto for the world day of the sick - Angelo Comastri
Jubilee 2000 Search

Angelo Comastri
Archbishop of Loreto, President of the Italian National Committee for the Jubilee 2000

«The Holy Spirit makes of us a house of health and hope»: was the theme of the 6th World Day of the Sick. It was the underlying theme of all initiatives for this event, whether in Loreto or elsewhere. It is worth underlining the significance of this celebration within the path of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Since this is the Jubilee which reminds us that «Time is indeed fulfilled by the very fact that God in the Incarnation, came down into human history» (TMA 9) in other words he has made his home among men. The Pope, with vibrant words, comments: «Eternity entered into time: what other "fulfillment" would be possible?» (ibid).
The divine decision to «make his home among men» is the only source of hope in the whole of history. This is why the Church never tires of repeating: «The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us» (Jn 1,14). During the Jubilee 2000 there will resound this announcement to which in this time of preparation we return in order to find new awareness, gratitude and docile openness of heart. In fact «The Jubilee of the Year 2000 is meant to be a great prayer of praise and thanksgiving, especially for the gift of the Incarnation of the Son of God and of the Redemption which he accomplished». (TMA 32).

The world day of the sick in Loreto
The Holy Father wrote in his Message for the World Day of the Sick: «The choice of Loreto is well in keeping with the Church’s long tradition of showing loving attention for those who suffer in body or in spirit. This will not fail to rekindle the prayer that the faithful, trusting in the intercession of Mary, lift up to the Lord for those who are sick. This important event also offers the ecclesial community an opportunity to gather in devout prayer before the Holy House, icon of an event as mysterious and fundamental as the Incarnation of the Word, so as to receive the light and the power of the Spirit who transforms the human heart into the dwelling place of hope». How full of light are these words! The World Day this year led us to the House of Mary: the House where the greatest event in human history took place; the House in which we breath the mystery of the presence of the Holy Spirit; the House in which fear is replaced by hope; the House in which we are caught up by Mary’s contagious faith.

Pope John Paul II writes: «"And the Word was made flesh" (Jn 1,14). It is at the Shrine of Loreto, more than anywhere else, that we are able to grasp the profound meaning of these words of St John the Evangelist. Within the walls of the Holy House, with particular force Jesus Christ, "God with us", tells us about the love of the Father (cfr Jn 3,16) manifested above all in the redemptive Incarnation. God in search of man became man Himself. Throwing a bridge between divine transcendence and the human condition. "His state was divine and yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself …even to accepting death, death on a cross" (Ph 2,6-8) Christ did not come to take away our sufferings but to share them and by taking them upon himself he gave them value and sacrifice» (Message).

The Fruits of the Day
The World Day revived in our memory of faith a marvelous truth that throws light on the darkness of all pain; pain is salvific! Christ, in fact, taking on himself our pain and filling it with Spirit of Love, has given every human suffering the possibility of becoming redemptive: united with the Crucified Christ, all the crucified people of the world may contribute to broadening the mysterious horizons of God’s Kingdom, thus building up the House of Hope. The sick must hear again this «good news». And we must love those who suffer and believe in the mystery of their suffering: we must visit them and surround them with loving care, because they are truly co-operators with salvation: they are apostles through their suffering!

How our apostolate would change, how it would grow in trust and enthusiasm if we were to visit the sick more often, listen to their wisdom and draw from the strength of their pain consigned to the power of Christ’s Spirit! The Holy Father concludes: «Contemplating the walls of the Holy House, we seem to hear once again the words with which the Mother of the Lord gave her consent and her co-operation to God’s plan of sacrifice: behold, generous self-giving; be it done unto me, trusting obedience. Becoming pure capacity of God, Mary made her life constant co-operation with the act of redemption accomplished by her Son Jesus. In this second year of preparation for the Jubilee, Mary should be contemplated and imitated "above all as the woman who was docile to the voice of the Spirit, woman of silence and attentiveness, a woman of hope who, like Abraham accepted God’s will hoping against hope" (Rom 4:18) (TMA 48)» (Message 4).
This World Day has helped to see once more with the eyes of faith: now this must grow until it becomes criteria of inspiration for all our ministry to the sick, for the sick, with the sick.

Beyond the Day
G. Bernanos, in «I grandi cimiteri sotto la luna» (1938) puts into the mouth of an atheist this harsh reproach regarding believers: «You are not interested in skeptics, but skeptics are interested in you. When you come out of the confessional you are in a state of grace. And yet this is not apparent. We ask ourselves what do you do with the grace of God? Should it not shine on your faces? Where do you hide your joy?». The World Day of the Sick was an opportune chance to proclaim the «good news» that pain has been redeemed by Christ and that therefore it can become a house of hope.

The Pope wrote: «On the occasion of this World day of the Sick, I wish to encourage the ecclesial community to renew its commitment to transforming human society into a "house of hope" in co-operation with all believers and people of good will" (Message 1998, 5). How is this possible? How can we make ours the experience of the Apostle Paul who, without hesitation, exclaims: «Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Anguish, persecution, hunger, being threatened or attacked?» (Rom 8,35). The Holy Father replies with an answer which goes to the heart of the Gospel. He writes: «Each diocese, parish and ecclesial community must work to present the themes of health and sickness in the light of the Gospel; they must encourage the promotion and defense of life and the dignity of the human person, from conception to its natural end; they should make concrete and visible a preferential option for the poor the marginalised and emigrants; among these they should give loving attention to the victims of new social ills, the disabled, the very ill, the dying and those who are forced by political and social disorder to abandon their country and live in precarious, or even inhuman conditions. Communities which live an evangelical deaconate, seeing in the poor and the sick "their Lord and Master", they should be a courageous proclamation of the Resurrection and contribute to renew efficaciously hope in the definitive coming of God’s Kingdom». (Message 1998, 6).

In these times of unrest and planetary re-composition of new balances, the Church is called to witness concretely that man is of value because he is man. A simple, elementary truth and yet so urgent and necessary: every man is of value because he is man. Today, sad to say, the defense of profit can become defense of inhuman behaviour, search for self fulfillment can produce violence unheard of, the law of the strongest can render legal the most absurd and aberrant injustices: therefore someone must recall that respect for the dignity of every person is the indispensable condition to qualify, as human, any civilization or a society. Recently, receiving the Ambassadors of the world the Pope warned: «When man is in danger of being considered an object which can be transformed or used according to pleasure, when the image of God in him is no longer perceived, when his capacity to love and sacrifice himself is deliberately concealed, when egoism and profit become the main motivations of economic activity, then everything is possible and barbarism is not far away».

We Christians must fight all barbarism! The frontier of this struggle passes every day through the weak, the sick, the handicapped, the aged, people needing special care and attention. The World Day of the Sick has been one of general mobilisation of consciences to introduce, in our everyday behaviour, a supplement of love for the sick in our homes or within reach of our horizons. This is how hope is built! Hope is in fact the inseparable sister of love: and love has its source in the Spirit of Love. Saint Paul summarised this reality when he wrote: «hope is not deceptive because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us» (Rom 5,5). A simple prayer by Mother Teresa of Calcutta traces the path of our commitment and our on-going conversion of attitude:

«O suffering Jesus,
let me, today and every day,
see You in the person of your sick ones,
and assisting them
may I serve you.
Let me see you even
hidden under the unattractive
guise of sickness and say:
Suffering Jesus
how sweet it is to serve you!
Give me O Lord this vision of faith
and my work will
never be monotonous.
I will find joy by embracing the little wishes
and desires of all the
poor people who suffer.
Dear sick person,
you are even more
dear to me because you represent Christ.
What a privilege it is for me to care for you!
God, since you are the suffering Jesus,
be also for me a patient Jesus,
indulgent towards my failings,
looking only at my intention
to love you
and serve you
in each of Your suffering children.
Lord increase my faith.
Bless my efforts and my work,
now and always».