Pope says caring for sick brings 'the smile of God'

Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St Peters Square before the Wednesday general audience on October 2 2013 Credit Elise Harris CNA 11 CNA 10 2 13 Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square Oct. 2. | Elise Harris / CNA.

Pope Francis released his message for the World Day of the Sick Dec. 7, emphasizing the important role of hope both for those who suffer and for their caregivers.

"When we come together, with tenderness, with those who have need of care, we carry the hope and the smile of God in contradiction to the world," said the Pope's message.

Because of Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection, Pope Francis explained, "we are placed in this world before the mystery of God's love for us, which fills us with hope and courage: hope, because in the design of God's love even the night of suffering opens to the Easter light; and courage, to confront every adversity in his company, united to Him."

In becoming man and taking on human suffering, Jesus transformed and reshaped our experience of pain.

Suffering and death "no longer have the last word," but now united with Christ, "the negative can become positive."

"Jesus is the way, and with his Spirit we can follow him. As the Father has given his Son for love, and the Son has given himself for the same love, we too can love others as God has loved us, giving our lives for our brothers," encouraged the Pope.

It is through "the strength of Baptism and of Confirmation (that) we are called to conform ourselves to Christ," he added.

With the grace of these sacraments, we can submit to the "test of authentic faith in Christ" which is "the gift of self to spread love of neighbor, especially to those who don't merit it, to those who suffer, to those who are marginalized."

The pontiff then went on to point to two examples of extraordinary Christian love: Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and St. John the Apostle, who stood at the foot of the cross with Mary.

St. John "makes us go back to the sources of faith and love, to the heart of God who 'is love,' and reminds us that we cannot love God if we don't love our brother."

Mary suffered greatly hearing the prophetic words of Simeon, who told her that "a sword would pierce her heart," yet "with strength (she) remained at the foot of Jesus' cross. She knows how to take this path and this is why she is the mother of all the sick and the suffering," explained Pope Francis.

Moreover, continued the Pope, Mary is "the mother of the crucified and risen one: she remains near to our crosses and accompanies us in our journey towards the resurrection and the fullness of life."

The twenty-second Day of the Sick will be observed on February 11, 2014.

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