Mary models for the sick 'surrender to God's will'

Pope Francis meets with the community of Romes Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital in the Vaticans Paul VI Hall Dec 15 2016 Credit LOsservatore Romano CNA Pope Francis meets with the community of Rome's Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital at the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, Dec. 15, 2016. | L'Osservatore Romano.

Pope Francis on Thursday announced the theme for the 25th World Day of the Sick, "Amazement at what God has accomplished," explaining that in difficult circumstances we should look to Mary as an example of how to embrace God's will for our lives.

"I encourage all of you," he said Dec. 15, "the sick, the suffering, physicians, nurses, family members and volunteers, to see in Mary, Health of the Infirm, the sure sign of God's love for every human being and a model of surrender to his will."

"May you always find in faith, nourished by the Word and by the Sacraments, the strength needed to love God, even in the experience of illness."

Instituted by St. John Paul II in 1992 – and first celebrated at Lourdes Feb. 11, 1993 – this year's theme for the World Day of the Sick centers on a line from the Magnificat: "the Almighty has done great things for me."

The next World Day of the Sick is an opportunity, Pope Francis said, "to reflect in particular on the needs of the sick and, more generally, on the needs of all those who suffer.

It's also a chance for everyone who assists the sick: family members, health care workers and volunteers, to give thanks to God for their vocation of accompanying the suffering and unwell, and for a renewal of this fundamental part of the Church's mission, he noted.
Mentioning St. Bernadette Soubirous, a 19th century saint who experienced visions of Mary as a young girl in Lourdes, the Pope said that like her, "we stand beneath the watchful gaze of Mary."

"The humble maiden of Lourdes tells us that the Virgin, whom she called 'the Lovely Lady,' looked at her as one person looks at another. Those simple words describe the fullness of a relationship," he said.

Although St. Bernadette was poor, ill, and illiterate, she felt that Mary looked at her "as a person" and spoke to her with "respect."

"This reminds us that every person is, and always remains, a human being, and is to be treated as such. The sick and those who are disabled, even severely, have their own inalienable dignity and mission in life," he emphasized. "They never become simply objects."

The Pope said God, who became a man and suffered with men, is united with us in our suffering. Christ became an "expression of God's merciful omnipotence" made manifest in our life "above all when that life is frail, pain filled, humbled, marginalized and suffering."

In this way, Christ fills our lives with the "power of hope that can sustain us and enable us to get up again."

"Let us ask Mary Immaculate for the grace always to relate to the sick as persons who certainly need assistance, at times even for the simplest of things, but who have a gift of their own to share with others," he said.

Pope Francis also met Dec. 15 with staff and around 150 children and their parents from the Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital in Rome.

Asked his advice for those who daily encounter suffering in their work, especially doctors and nurses, the Pope said simply to "daily rediscover the value of gratitude."

"Saying thank you nourishes hope – that hope by which St. Paul said we are saved," he noted. "Hope is the fuel of Christian life, you can't go without it. The fuel that makes you go forward every day."

Francis explained how this is something that even children know, and that to live as "grateful people, as happy, small, simple and joyful children of God" is beautiful.

We can learn a lot by watching children and trying to be like them, he said, especially in the way they "fight for life," as nurses, doctors, and parents often witness.

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