ON THE PARADOX OF ILLNESS
Dear brothers and sisters!
This Sunday's Gospel presents to us Jesus who heals the sick: first Simon Peter's mother-in-law, who was sick in bed with fever and he, taking her by the hand, healed her and made her able to get up; then all the sick of Capernaum, suffering in the body, mind and spirit and he "healed many … and drove out many demons" (Mark 1:34). The four evangelists are in agreement in testifying that freeing of people from sicknesses and infirmities of every type constituted, together with preaching, Jesus' principal activity in his public life. In effect, the sicknesses are a sign of the action of evil in the world and in man, while the healings show that the Kingdom of God, God himself, is near. Jesus Christ came to conquer evil at its root, and the healings are an anticipation of his victory, obtained by his death and resurrection.
One day Jesus said: "The healthy have no need of a doctor but only the sick" (Mark 2:17). He is speaking here of sinners, whom he came to save. It is nevertheless true that sickness is a typically human condition in which we have a powerful experience of our lack of self-sufficiency, that we need others. In this sense we can say, with a paradox, that sickness becomes a salutary occasion in which we can experience the attention of others and give attention to others! Nevertheless, it is always a trial that can also become long and difficult. When healing does not take place and the sufferings continue, we can be crushed, isolated, and then our existence can sink into the depths and become dehumanized. How should we respond to this attack of evil?
Certainly we can use the appropriate cures -- medicine has made gigantic strides in these decades and we are grateful -- but the Word of God teaches us that there is a decisive and basic attitude with which to face sickness and it is that of faith in God, in his goodness. Jesus always repeats it to the people he heals: your faith has saved you (cf. Mark 5:34, 36). Even in the face of death, faith can make possible what is humanly impossible.
But faith in what? In the love of God. This is the true response that can radically defeat evil. As Jesus confronted the evil one with the force of love that came to him from the Father, so we too can confront and win out in the trial of sickness, keeping our heart immersed in God's love. We all know people who were able to endure terrible sufferings because God gave them a profound serenity. I think of the recent example of Blessed Chiara Badano, cut down in the flower of youth by an inescapable evil: those who went to visit her received the light of confidence from her! Nevertheless, in sickness we all need human warmth: serene and sincere nearness count more than words in helping a sick person.
Dear friends, next Saturday, Feb. 11, the commemoration of the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes, is the World Day of the Sick. Let us do what the people of Jesus' time did: In a spiritual way let us bring all of the sick to him, confident that he wants to and can heal them. And we invoke the intercession of the Madonna, especially for situations of great suffering and isolation. Mary, Health of the Sick, pray for us!