Pope Francis Asks, ‘What About You?’ Will You Be A Missionary?

Official text of the Holy Father’s homily for the Mass Sept. 26 at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia

This morning I learned something about the history of this beautiful Cathedral: the story behind its high walls and windows. I would like to think, though, that the history of the Church in this city and state is really a story not about building walls, but about breaking them down. It is a story about generation after generation of committed Catholics going out to the peripheries, and building communities of worship, education, charity and service to the larger society.

That story is seen in the many shrines which dot this city, and the many parish churches whose towers and steeples speak of God’s presence in the midst of our communities. It is seen in the efforts of all those dedicated priests, religious and laity who for over two centuries have ministered to the spiritual needs of the poor, the immigrant, the sick and those in prison. And it is seen in the hundreds of schools where religious brothers and sisters trained children to read and write, to love God and neighbor, and to contribute as good citizens to the life of American society. All of this is a great legacy which you have received, and which you have been called to enrich and pass on.

Most of you know the story of Saint Katharine Drexel, one of the great saints raised up by this local Church. When she spoke to Pope Leo XIII of the needs of the missions, the Pope – he was a very wise Pope! – asked her pointedly: “What about you? What are you going to do?”. Those words changed Katharine’s life, because they reminded her that, in the end, every Christian man and woman, by virtue of baptism, has received a mission. Each one of us has to respond, as best we can, to the Lord’s call to build up his Body, the Church.

“What about you?” I would like to dwell on two aspects of these words in the context of our particular mission to transmit the joy of the Gospel and to build up the Church, whether as priests, deacons, or members of institutes of consecrated life.

First, those words – “What about you?” – were addressed to a young person, a young woman with high ideals, and they changed her life. They made her think of the immense work that had to be done, and to realize that she was being called to do her part. How many young people in our parishes and schools have the same high ideals, generosity of spirit, and love for Christ and the Church! Do we challenge them? Do we make space for them and help them to do their part? To find ways of sharing their enthusiasm and gifts with our communities, above all in works of mercy and concern for others? Do we share our own joy and enthusiasm in serving the Lord?

One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to enable them to fulfill that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel in our world. This will require creativity in adapting to changed situations, carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the possibilities which the Spirit opens up to us and communicating the joy of the Gospel, daily and in every season of our life.

“What about you?” It is significant that those words of the elderly Pope were also addressed to a lay woman. We know that the future of the Church in a rapidly changing society will call, and even now calls, for a much more active engagement on the part of the laity. The Church in the United States has always devoted immense effort to the work of catechesis and education. Our challenge today is to build on those solid foundations and to foster a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility in planning for the future of our parishes and institutions. This does not mean relinquishing the spiritual authority with which we have been entrusted; rather, it means discerning and employing wisely the manifold gifts which the Spirit pours out upon the Church. In a particular way, it means valuing the immense contribution which women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make, to the life of our communities.

Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for the way in which each of you has answered Jesus’ question which inspired your own vocation: “What about you?”. I encourage you to be renewed in the joy of that first encounter with Jesus and to draw from that joy renewed fidelity and strength. I look forward to being with you in these days and I ask you to bring my affectionate greetings to those who could not be with us, especially the many elderly priests and religious who join us in spirit.

During these days of the World Meeting of Families, I would ask you in a particular way to reflect on our ministry to families, to couples preparing for marriage, and to our young people. I know how much is being done in your local Churches to respond to the needs of families and to support them in their journey of faith. I ask you to pray fervently for them, and for the deliberations of the forthcoming Synod on the Family.

Now, with gratitude for all we have received, and with confident assurance in all our needs, let us turn to Mary, our Blessed Mother. With a mother’s love, may she intercede for the growth of the Church in America in prophetic witness to the power of her Son’s Cross to bring joy, hope and strength into our world. I pray for each of you, and I ask you, please, to pray for me.

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GIVING GOD ALL THAT IS DUE TO HIM

(C) Sabbath/Based on September 25, 2015 Readings

We can ignore God all we like but that will not make Him or the truth of the Gospel irrelevant. We will reach a point in our lives when we have to make a decision for or against God. Jesus asks His disciples as He will ask us all who we think He is. What kind of relationship do we want to have with God? A relationship is always a two-way thing. He wants to be in a relationship with us and so we do not need to fear Him. He will make us feel at home.

A challenge that everyone faces today is busyness. Busyness can be the death of our relationships because we get distracted and we forget that it is important to simply be with one another. This is the essence of relationships — spending time with one another, with little or no planned agenda other than to be attentive to one another. The danger with labeling a person is that we can miss the real person behind the labels. This is part of the magic of Jesus as He relates to us — He does not have to protect Himself as He is sure of His identity and this gives us the confidence to let our defenses down as well.

Let us never be afraid to be the persons God created us to be. He has done so for a reason and we need to trust that He knew what He was doing when He created us. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand the wisdom of God — why He does or allows certain things to happen to us — so we simply need to trust Him and get on with living. It is a shame to come across a person who is afraid to be the person he really is. It is as though life passes them by and we are the poorer because we never get to see who they are and receive all that they have to offer.

  • Fr. Steve Tynan, MGL
 

REFLECTION QUESTION: Have you ever been afraid to be the person God created you to be or to express your true personality?

Father, thank You for the gift of my life. May I never be ashamed or afraid to live my life to the full and to be the person You created me to be.

GOOD LEADERSHIP

http://www.catholic.org.sg/scripture-reflection/a-2/

SCRIPTURE READINGS: EZRA 9:5-9; LK 9:1-6

The scripture readings today enlighten us in the way leaders should lead.  In the gospel, Jesus, our great leader and teacher, gives us a few tips on how to be an effective leader.

Firstly, to be a leader one must be a visionary and a dreamer.  A leader who simply maintains the status quo is not a good leader.  A leader without a vision will eventually stifle and kill the organization under his charge.  Either his followers will die a natural death or join another group that can give life.  Both Ezra and Jesus were certainly visionaries in their days.

Ezra was certainly a great visionary.  He wanted to rebuild the community by prohibiting mixed marriages with the pagans.  He knew that once the faith of the people was weakened by such inter-faith marriages, the people would lose their single-mindedness in serving God.  In many ways, there is truth in the concerns of Ezra.  Mixed marriages pose tremendous challenges for couples seeking to share life with each other because of different values and faith. This causes division and often misunderstandings. At its best, it results in compromises and both parties could lose their faith after some time as they seek to accommodate each other.  Hence, Ezra’s insistence on fidelity to the Law in his time helped the people to stay united, especially when they were persecuted later on during the time of the Maccabees.  But such an attempt to shield the purity of the faith of the people also bred an elite society, leading to tensions and isolation from peoples of other faiths and cultures where pagans were seen as outcasts. So whilst Ezra’s vision was understandable in the context of illegitimate inculturation, it had its limitations.

Hence, it is not enough to be a visionary.  The vision must be broad and inclusive.  The vision of Jesus has this character.  He came to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom, not for the healthy, as He said in the gospel yesterday, but for the sick.  He came to share the unconditional love and mercy of the Father for all, including sinners and tax collectors.  He did not restrict the Good News from the Gentiles. He purposefully reached out to the Samaritans.  Such was the breath, length and depth of Jesus’ vision and dream for His people. The Kingdom belongs to all and is not territorial, but it is the reign of God in our hearts.

Jesus’ vision is not only inclusive but holistic as well.  He instructed the disciples to “proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.”  Jesus did not preach a “pie in the sky” brand of gospel.  He came not only to preach the salvation of the soul but also to heal the body.  Preaching without healing is too abstract and no one can feel God’s love by just hearing the words.  Preaching must be accompanied by healing and by works of mercy as God comes to touch our hearts through the body.  On the other hand, healing without preaching will reduce the gospel to another social ideology or humanitarian program.  God comes to save both soul and body.  That is why He became man in Jesus Christ.  But salvation is not merely of the body, it includes the healing and enlightening of the mind and the heart.  His vision of salvation and restoration therefore is of an integrated person.

Secondly, a leader must choose carefully from among his disciples those he wants to appoint as apostles.  In the gospel, we read that Jesus did not keep the dream for Himself but He “called the Twelve together.”  This act of calling is important.  In choosing the Twelve, Jesus intentionally chose a motley crowd.  He did not choose all with the same mindset or skills or character.  The apostles were all so different from each other.  Some are more educated, like St Matthew.  All were from different trades and backgrounds.  Some were revolutionaries.  A proactive leader is who knows who to choose to share his dreams and then get the disparate group to work together and complement each other in skills, knowledge and strength.  Having the charism to tap each individual’s strengths whilst overlooking their weaknesses and rallying them to work together is a necessary attribute of a great leader.

Thirdly, once chosen, the leader must delegate and empower those under his charge.  In the gospel, Jesus not only chose them but “gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases.”   The failure of leaders to delegate is the cause of inefficiency.  When a leader chooses to do all things by himself, he micromanages.  As a consequence, his vision and mission becomes very narrow.  This is often the result of insecurity.  Such leadership is often authoritarian.

But delegating is only the first step.  Delegation comes with empowerment. It is not possible to delegate without at the same time bestowing power on those whom we delegate.  This is the other mistake of leadership.  Some leaders do delegate but they would override the decisions of their subordinates who have been assigned to do the task.  This causes the subordinates to lose respect and credibility among their peers.  They lose authority and effectiveness. Thus, it is important that those whom we delegate must be given the necessary power and authority to carry out their tasks.   When choosing us to be His instruments or messengers, Jesus never fails to equip us for the tasks just as He empowered the disciples.

Fourthly, the leader must instruct and give specific guidelines to his disciples.  Pope Francis reminds us very often that we are neither disciples nor missionaries but always at the same time, missionary disciples.  We are disciples for the mission.  We cannot be apostles of Christ unless we are His disciples. This missionary discipleship is an ongoing process because Christ is the only teacher and master.  It is notable that Jesus took pains to instruct His apostles for the mission.  He gave them specific instructions as to what needed to be done.  He did not leave them to decide for themselves.  Leaders must give the directions whilst allowing those under their charge to find their own creative ways to bring about the vision.

So what did Jesus instruct them?  The first principle in mission is to trust in divine providence.  This is the work of God, not ours.  We are His servants.  He wants us to rely on His own strength, not ours.  This explains why He instructed His disciples not to take anything on their journey except what is absolutely necessary. Only when we are totally dependent on God rather than our own resources do we know that God is great and He is the living God.  Otherwise, we think the success is the work of our hands rather than the power of God’s grace.

Secondly, we must not take things into our own hands.  This is what Jesus instructed the disciples.  “As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave their town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.”  Indeed, success in the ministry is the work of God. There is no need to be angry or resentful when our love and kindness or the Good News is rejected.  So long as we have done our part, we can move on in peace to another place that welcomes us.  The loss is theirs, not ours.  As the psalmist says, “It is he who scattered us among the nations. Among them must we show forth our greatness and exalt him in the presence of all living; for he is our Lord and our God, our Father and our God for ever.”

Thirdly, we must travel light and fast because the mission is urgent.  This is the other reason why the Lord told the disciples not to take too many things.  If they were bogged down my material things, they would not be able to travel fast.  In mission, we need to understand the urgency of the Good News.  We cannot delay any longer.  But in whatever we do, we must not be burdened or held back by non-essentials.  Many Churches spend too much time squabbling over structures, rules and discipline whilst forgetting that many are leaving the Church.  Many feel that the Church treats them harshly and often juridically without compassion and sensitivity.   The inflexibility of the application of the rules put many Catholics off.  Sometimes, too much attention is paid to the frills and the real mission of the Church is not carried out.

Fourthly, they must travel far by having someone to accompany them.   Jesus, we are told, would send out the disciples two by two.  Without teamwork and fraternal support, we can travel fast but not far because of our limitations.  So having someone to accompany us in our mission will help us to do beyond what one person can do.  Team ministry works more effectively.  We must never work alone but always with others.  The mission of the Church must be accomplished in communion since it has the mission of bringing communion.

Finally, a good leader would review with his subordinates regularly as Jesus did with His disciples.  After the return of the 70 disciples, Jesus called them to share with each other the success, the joy and the setbacks in their ministry.  It is important that with delegation there must also be a review and feedback.  Delegation without supervision, evaluation and accountability would end up with each person building his or her own kingdom or cause the whole team to malfunction.   Hence, Jesus would call the disciples together to share their experiences and then have them pray together, thanking God for their success in the ministry and for His continued assistance and blessings.  (Cf. Lk 11:17-24)

Above all, before one can lead, the necessary prerequisite is that the leader must first experience the mercy of God through a conscious acknowledgement of one’s own sins and that of the community he belongs to.  This was the case of Ezra who not only confessed the sins of the community but his share of the sins as well.  By confessing our sins humbly, we become more aware of our own inadequacy and as a consequence a greater appreciation of God’s love and mercy.   Like the psalmist, our experience must also be that of His mercy and forgiveness.  “God punishes, he also has mercy.  He leads men to the depths of the grave.  He restores men from the great destruction. No man can escape his hand.”  A leader is inspired to reach out to his broken people only when he himself has been in that situation and rescued from it.  So it is always the mercy of God that spurs us on to reach out to others whom we can identify with in their pains and bondages.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
© All Rights Reserved

St. Thérèse and her Little Way

http://blog.littleflower.org/st-therese/st-therese-and-her-little-way/

What is the meaning of ‘the little way’ of St. Thérèse? It is an image that tries to capture her understanding of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, of seeking holiness of life in the ordinary and the everyday.

St. Thérèse based ‘her little way’ on two fundamental convictions: (1) God shows love by mercy and forgiveness, and (2) she could not be ‘perfect’ in following the Lord. St. Thérèse believed that the people of her time lived in too great a fear of God’s judgment. The fear was stifling and did not allow people to experience the freedom of the children of God.

St. Thérèse knew from her life that God is merciful love; many scripture passages in the Old and New Testaments bore out that truth. She loved the maternal images for God in the Old Testament and the love of God for us in Jesus Christ.

In fact, St. Thérèse once wrote that she could not understand how anyone could be afraid of a God who became a child. She also knew that she would never be perfect. Therefore, she went to God as a child approaches a parent . . . with open arms and a profound trust.

St. Thérèse translated ‘the little way’ in terms of a commitment to the tasks and to the people we meet in our everyday lives. She took her assignments in the convent of Lisieux as ways of manifesting her love for God and for others. She worked as a sacristan by taking care of the altar and the chapel; she served in the refectory and in the laundry room; she wrote plays for the entertainment of the community. Above all, she tried to show a love for ail the nuns in the community. She played no favourites; she gave of herself even to the difficult members. Her life sounds so routine and ordinary, but it was steeped in a loving commitment that knew no breakdown. It is called a ‘little way’ precisely by being simple, direct, yet calling for amazing fortitude and commitment.

In living out her life of faith she sensed that everything that she was able to accomplish came from the generous love of God in her life. She was convinced that at the end of her life she would go to God with empty hands. Why? Because all was accomplished in union with God.

Catholics and other Christians have been attracted to St. Thérèse’s style. Her ‘little way’ seems to put holiness of life within the reach of ordinary people. Live out your days with confidence in God’s love for you. Recognize that each day is a gift in which your life can make a difference by the way you choose to live it. Put hope in a future in which God will be all and love will consume your spirit. Choose life, not the darkness of pettiness and greed. St. Thérèse knew the difference love makes by allowing love to be the statement she made each day of her life.

Rev. John F. Russell, O.Carm.
Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J. 07079

Sicut Parvuli, July 1997
Vol. LIX No. 2

Church is essential for faith; there are no ‘free agents,’ Pope says

http://ncronline.org/blogs/francis-chronicles/church-essential-faith-there-are-no-free-agents-pope-says

Christians are not made in a laboratory, but in a community called the church, Pope Francis said.

At his weekly general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis continued his series of audience talks about the church, telling an estimated 33,000 people that there is no such thing as “do-it-yourself” Christians or “free agents” when it comes to faith.

Every Christian, he said, can trace his or her faith back to parents, grandparents, teachers or friends. “I always remember the nun who taught me catechism. I know she’s in heaven because she was a holy woman,” he said.

In the Old Testament, the pope said, God called Abraham and began to form a people that would become a blessing for the world. “With great patience — and God has a lot of it — he prepared the people of the ancient covenant and in Jesus Christ constituted them as a sign and instrument of the union of humanity with God and unity with one another.”

Pope Francis described as “dangerous” the temptation to believe that one can have “a personal, direct, immediate relationship with Jesus Christ without communion with and the mediation of the church.”

Obviously, he said, it is not always easy to walk the path of faith with other people. “Sometimes it’s tiring. It can happen that a brother or sister creates problems for us or scandalizes us, but the Lord entrusted his message of salvation to human beings, to us, to witnesses,” he said.

“It is through our brothers and sisters with their gifts and their limits,” the pope said, “that he comes to us and makes himself known. This is what belonging to the church means. Remember: Being Christian means belonging to the church. If your first name is Christian, your last name is Member of the Church.”

At the end of his talk, the pope asked people to join him in praying that they would never “give into the temptation of thinking you can do without others, without the church, that you can save yourself, of thinking you can be a laboratory Christian.”

Christians, he said, are not manufactured in isolation, but belong to a long line of believers who handed on the faith and challenged one another to live it fully.

The audience was the last the pope was scheduled to hold before beginning a reduced summer schedule.

Pope: “illness can be the way to draw nearer to Jesus”

http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-illness-can-be-the-way-to-draw-nearer-to-jesu

The theme of his message is “Entrusting Oneself to the Merciful Jesus like Mary”. In it he says that on this World Day of the Sick “let us ask Jesus in his mercy, through the intercession of Mary, his Mother and ours, to grant to all of us this same readiness to be serve those in need, and, in particular, our infirm brothers and sisters”.

At times – Pope Francis says – “this service can be tiring and burdensome, yet we are certain that the Lord will surely turn our human efforts into something divine.  We too can be hands, arms and hearts which help God to perform his miracles, so often hidden.”

Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’s Message for the World Day of the Sick: 
Entrusting Oneself to the Merciful Jesus like Mary: “Do whatever he tells you”  (Jn 2:5)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The twenty-fourth World Day of the Sick offers me an opportunity to draw particularly close to you, dear friends who are ill, and to those who care for you.
This year, since the Day of the Sick will be solemnly celebrated in the Holy Land, I wish to propose a meditation on the Gospel account of the wedding feast of Cana (Jn 2: 1-11), where Jesus performed his first miracle through the intervention of his Mother.  The theme chosen – Entrusting Oneself to the Merciful Jesus like Mary: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5) is quite fitting in light of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.  The main Eucharistic celebration of the Day will take place on 11 February 2016, the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, in Nazareth itself, where “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14).  In Nazareth, Jesus began his salvific mission, applying to himself the words of the Prophet Isaiah, as we are told by the Evangelist Luke: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19).

Illness, above all grave illness, always places human existence in crisis and brings with it questions that dig deep.  Our first response may at times be one of rebellion: Why has this happened to me?  We can feel desperate, thinking that all is lost, that things no longer have meaning…

In these situations, faith in God is on the one hand tested, yet at the same time can reveal all of its positive resources.  Not because faith makes illness, pain, or the questions which they raise, disappear, but because it offers a key by which we can discover the deepest meaning of what we are experiencing; a key that helps us to see how illness can be the way to draw nearer to Jesus who walks at our side, weighed down by the Cross.  And this key is given to us by Mary, our Mother, who has known this way at first hand.

At the wedding feast of Cana, Mary is the thoughtful woman who sees a serious problem for the spouses: the wine, the symbol of the joy of the feast, has run out.  Mary recognizes the difficulty, in some way makes it her own, and acts swiftly and discreetly.  She does not simply look on, much less spend time in finding fault, but rather, she turns to Jesus and presents him with the concrete problem: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3).  And when Jesus tells her that it is not yet the time for him to reveal himself (cf. v. 4), she says to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you” (v. 5).  Jesus then performs the miracle, turning water into wine, a wine that immediately appears to be the best of the whole celebration.  What teaching can we draw from this mystery of the wedding feast of Cana for the World Day of the Sick?

The wedding feast of Cana is an image of the Church: at the centre there is Jesus who in his mercy performs a sign; around him are the disciples, the first fruits of the new community; and beside Jesus and the disciples is Mary, the provident and prayerful Mother.  Mary partakes of the joy of ordinary people and helps it to increase; she intercedes with her Son on behalf of the spouses and all the invited guests.  Nor does Jesus refuse the request of his Mother.  How much hope there is in that event for all of us!  We have a Mother with benevolent and watchful eyes, like her Son; a heart that is maternal and full of mercy, like him; hands that want to help, like the hands of Jesus who broke bread for those who were hungry, touched the sick and healed them.  All this fills us with trust and opens our hearts to the grace and mercy of Christ.  Mary’s intercession makes us experience the consolation for which the apostle Paul blesses God: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow” (2 Cor 1:3-5).  Mary is the “comforted” Mother who comforts her children.

At Cana the distinctive features of Jesus and his mission are clearly seen: he comes to the help of those in difficulty and need.  Indeed, in the course of his messianic ministry he would heal many people of illnesses, infirmities and evil spirits, give sight to the blind, make the lame walk, restore health and dignity to lepers, raise the dead, and proclaim the good news to the poor (cf. Lk 7:21-22).  Mary’s request at the wedding feast, suggested by the Holy Spirit to her maternal heart, clearly shows not only Jesus’ messianic power but also his mercy.

In Mary’s concern we see reflected the tenderness of God.  This same tenderness is present in the lives of all those persons who attend the sick and understand their needs, even the most imperceptible ones, because they look upon them with eyes full of love.  How many times has a mother at the bedside of her sick child, or a child caring for an elderly parent, or a grandchild concerned for a grandparent, placed his or her prayer in the hands of Our Lady!  For our loved ones who suffer because of illness we ask first for their health.  Jesus himself showed the presence of the Kingdom of God specifically through his healings: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them” (Mt 11:4-5).  But love animated by faith makes us ask for them something greater than physical health: we ask for peace, a serenity in life that comes from the heart and is God’s gift, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, a gift which the Father never denies to those who ask him for it with trust.

In the scene of Cana, in addition to Jesus and his Mother, there are the “servants”, whom she tells: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).  Naturally, the miracle takes place as the work of Christ; however, he wants to employ human assistance in performing this miracle.  He could have made the wine appear directly in the jars.  But he wants to rely upon human cooperation, and so he asks the servants to fill them with water.  How wonderful and pleasing to God it is to be servants of others!  This more than anything else makes us like Jesus, who “did not come to be served but to serve” (Mk 10:45).  These unnamed people in the Gospel teach us a great deal.  Not only do they obey, but they obey generously: they fill the jars to the brim (cf. Jn 2:7).  They trust the Mother and carry out immediately and well what they are asked to do, without complaining, without second thoughts.

On this World Day of the Sick let us ask Jesus in his mercy, through the intercession of Mary, his Mother and ours, to grant to all of us this same readiness to be serve those in need, and, in particular, our infirm brothers and sisters.  At times this service can be tiring and burdensome, yet we are certain that the Lord will surely turn our human efforts into something divine.  We too can be hands, arms and hearts which help God to perform his miracles, so often hidden.  We too, whether healthy or sick, can offer up our toil and sufferings like the water which filled the jars at the wedding feast of Cana and was turned into the finest wine.  By quietly helping those who suffer, as in illness itself, we take our daily cross upon our shoulders and follow the Master (cf. Lk 9:23).  Even though the experience of suffering will always remain a mystery, Jesus helps us to reveal its meaning.

If we can learn to obey the words of Mary, who says: “Do whatever he tells you”, Jesus will always change the water of our lives into precious wine.  Thus this World Day of the Sick, solemnly celebrated in the Holy Land, will help fulfil the hope which I expressed in the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy: ‘I trust that this Jubilee year celebrating the mercy of God will foster an encounter with [Judaism and Islam] and with other noble religious traditions; may it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination’ (Misericordiae Vultus, 23).  Every hospital and nursing home can be a visible sign and setting in which to promote the culture of encounter and peace, where the experience of illness and suffering, along with professional and fraternal assistance, helps to overcome every limitation and division.

For this we are set an example by the two Religious Sisters who were canonized last May: Saint Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas and Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified Baouardy, both daughters of the Holy Land.  The first was a witness to meekness and unity, who bore clear witness to the importance of being responsible for one another other, living in service to one another.  The second, a humble and illiterate woman, was docile to the Holy Spirit and became an instrument of encounter with the Muslim world.

To all those who assist the sick and the suffering I express my confident hope that they will draw inspiration from Mary, the Mother of Mercy.  “May the sweetness of her countenance watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness” (ibid., 24), allow it to dwell in our hearts and express it in our actions!  Let us entrust to the Virgin Mary our trials and tribulations, together with our joys and consolations.  Let us beg her to turn her eyes of mercy towards us, especially in times of pain, and make us worthy of beholding, today and always, the merciful face of her Son Jesus!

With this prayer for all of you, I send my Apostolic Blessing.