Roma (Agenzia Fides) – “In trials and sickness God visits us in a mysterious manner and, if we are docile to His will, we will experience the power of His love. Hospitals and nursing homes, precisely because the inmates are people tried by pain, can become privileged places in which to bear witness to Christian love which nourishes hope and give rise to resolutions of fraternal solidarity”. The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI said this during his homily at Mass celebrated on the First Sunday of Advent, 2 December, at San Giovanni Battista Hospital in the Magliana district of Rome, where he made a pastoral visit (see Agenzia Fides 27/11/2007).
The Pope began his homily reflecting on the significance of the Season of Advent: “The Lord comes!… Watching and praying, we too strive to prepare our heart to welcome the Saviour who is coming to show us his mercy and to give us his salvation”. On the subject of hope, characteristic of the season of Advent, Benedict XVI recalled his newly published second Encyclical, dedicated to Christian hope and he encouraged those present: “May we be filled with the certainty that God alone can be our hope as we gather together in this home where, sustained by solidarity, you fight disease”. Taking advantage of his visit to the Hospital run by the Knights of Malta the Pope said desired “ideally to consign the Encyclical to the Christian community in Rome and especially those in direct contact with suffering and illness”.
After greeting the Authorities present, the Holy Father addressed “affectionate greeting” to the patients and their families: “the Pope is spiritually close to you and assures you of his daily prayer; he urges you to find strength and comfort in Jesus and never to be disheartened. The Advent liturgy in the coming weeks will urge us to invoke Him tirelessly; to go out to meet Him, knowing that He comes to visit us again and again”. The Pontiff encouraged those present to open their hearts to every person, “especially those in difficulty, because when we do good to those in need we are preparing to welcome Jesus who visits us in them”. Underlining that in a hospital “the main concern is to offer patients loving and qualified care, to safeguard their dignity and strive to improve the quality of their life”, the Holy Father recalled that down through the centuries the Church has always been close to people who suffer. “This spirit has been shared by your praiseworthy Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta, which began by dedicating itself to assisting pilgrims in the Holy Land at a Hospice-Infirmary” said Benedict XVI, encouraging doctors and nurses with these words: “In every patient, whoever they may be, learn to recognise and serve Christ himself; let the person experience signs of His merciful love through your actions and words”.
In the last part of his homily the Pope returned to the meaning of Advent, “a time for praying and watchful waiting”, according to the Sunday readings and he said: “Jesus, who with his Nativity came among us and will return in glory at the end of time, never tires of visiting us in the events of every day. He asks us and warns us to watch and wait for him because his coming will not be programmed or predicted, it will be sudden and unannounced. Only those who are ready will not be taken by surprise … let us prepare then to welcome the Lord in his incessant coming towards us in the events of life, in joy and in pain, in health and in sickness; let us prepare to meet Him at his final coming”. (S.L.) (Agenzia Fides 3/12/2007, righe 41, parole 603)