May 17, 2010

John Paul II on Physical Suffering


Bodily Suffering in Sickness
Pope John Paul spoke to a gathering of sick people outside the Monastery of Jasna Gora, the famous Marian Shrine in Poland. This is what he told them:

My pilgrimage to Poland cannot go without a word to the sick, who are so close to my heart. I know, my dear friends, how in your letters to me you often write that you are offering for my intentions the heavy cross of your illness and suffering, that you are offering it for my mission as Pope. May the Lord reward you.

Every time I recite the morning, midday, and evening Angelus, I feel, dear fellow-countrymen, your special closeness to me. I unite myself spiritually with all of you. In a particular way I renew the spiritual unity that binds me to every person who is suffering, to everyone who is sick, to everyone confined to a hospital bed, to every invalid tied to a wheel-chair, to every person who in one way or another is meeting his cross.

Dear brothers and sisters, every contact with you, no matter where it has taken place in the past or takes place today, has been a source of deep spiritual emotion for me. I have always felt how insufficient were the words that I could speak to you and with which I could express my human compassion. I have the same impression today also, I feel the same way always. But there remains the one dimension, the one reality in which human suffering is essentially transformed. This dimension, this reality, is the cross of Christ. On His cross the Son of God accomplished the redemption of the world. It is through this mystery that every cross placed on someone’s shoulders acquires a dignity that is humanly inconceivable and becomes a sign of salvation for the person who carries it and also for others. “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s affliction” (Col 1:24), wrote St. Paul.

Therefore, uniting myself with all of you who are suffering throughout the land of Poland, in your homes, in the hospitals, the clinics, the dispensaries, the sanatoria---wherever you may be—I beg you to make use of the cross that has become part of each one of you for salvation. I pray for you to have light and spiritual strength in your suffering, that you may not lose courage but may discover for yourselves the meaning of suffering and may be able to relieve others by prayer and sacrifice. And do not forget me and the whole of the Church, and the cause of the Gospel and peace that I am serving by Christ’s will. You who are weak and humanly incapable, be a source of strength for your brother and father who is at your side in prayer and heart.
These are the words of a father who understands. They are also the words of Christ’s Vicar teaching the suffering faithful to profit from the cross they bear and unite their trials with Jesus.

What is the Pope also saying? He is emphasizing the value of pain, when joined with prayer, in moving the heart of God. Prayer, all prayer, is always efficacious. But prayer takes on extraordinary power to win graces, for the one praying and for all mankind, when it is united with patient suffering.

Indeed, suffering is already a prayer, when humbly accepted from the hands of God and offered to God—as Christ’s prayer on the Cross—in patient resignation to a divine will.

No comments :