Fear leads to silence amid suffering of sick, needy, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Favio Frustaci, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Fear often causes people to remain silent in the face of
other’s suffering and marginalize the sick and those most in need, Pope
Francis said.

Instead of being viewed as “an occasion to manifest
care and solidarity,” the sick and the suffering are often seen as
problem, the pope said Sept. 9 during his Sunday Angelus address.

After praying the Angelus prayer with an estimated 15,000
pilgrims in St. Peter’s
Square, the pope led them in applauding the beatification of Blessed Alphonse
Marie Eppinger, a 19th-century
nun who founded the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer.

“Let us give thanks to God for this courageous and wise
woman who, while suffering in silence and prayer, gave witness to God’s love,
especially to those who were sick in body and spirit,” the pope said.

In his main address, Pope Francis reflected on the Sunday
Gospel reading from St. Mark, which recalled Jesus’ healing of a deaf man who
had a speech impediment.

According to the Gospel, Jesus healed the man as he placed
his “finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue” as he looked
up to heaven and said, “Ephphatha”
(“Be opened”).

Pope Francis explained that the Gospel story emphasizes a
“two-fold healing” that not only involves restoring the
“physical health of the body” but also the “healing of
fear” that “drives us to marginalize the sick, to marginalize the
suffering, the disabled.”

“There are many ways of marginalizing, also with
pseudo-compassion or by removing the problem; one remains deaf and dumb in the face
of the suffering of
people marked by illness,
anguish and
difficulties,” he said.

Jesus’ command that the man’s ears and tongue “be
opened” is also a calling for Christians to be open to “our suffering
brothers and sisters in need of help” and to reject selfishness and the
closure of one’s heart, the pope said.

The heart, he added, is what Jesus came to “liberate, to make us
capable of living fully our relationship with God and with others.”

Jesus became human so that human beings, “rendered interiorly deaf and
dumb by sin, can listen to the voice of God, the voice of love that speaks to the heart and thus learn
to speak, in turn, the language of love, translating it into gestures of
generosity and self-giving,” Pope Francis said.

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