From February 11 to July 16 in the year 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a young girl named Bernadette who lived in Lourdes, France. She revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception and showed the young girl a spring of water which has been a source of healing for the sick ever since. As we pray for health workers, that they may be sustained in their efforts to assist the sick and elderly in the world’s poorest regions, let us reflect on part of Pope Benedict’s homily for this feast in 2010.
In their concise descriptions of Jesus' brief but intense public life, the Gospels testify that he proclaimed the word and healed the sick, a sign par excellence of the closeness of the Kingdom of Heaven. For example, Matthew wrote: "He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people" (Mt 4: 23; cf. 9: 35). The Church, entrusted with the task of extending Christ's mission in time and space, cannot neglect these two essential tasks: evangelization and the care of the sick in body and in mind. Indeed, God wants to heal the whole of man and in the Gospel the healing of the body is a sign of the deeper recovery that is the forgiveness of sins (cf. Mk 2: 1-12). It is therefore not surprising that Mary, Mother and model of the Church, is invoked and venerated as "Salus infirmorum Health of the sick". As the first and perfect disciple of her Son, in guiding the Church on her journey she has always shown special solicitude for the suffering. Witness to this are the thousands of people who go to Marian shrines to invoke the Mother of Christ and find in her strength and relief. The Gospel account of the Visitation (cf. Lk 1: 39-56) shows us how, after the announcement of the Angel, the Virgin did not keep the gift she had received to herself but immediately set out to go and help her elderly cousin Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant with John. In the support that Mary offered this relative who was experiencing a delicate condition such as pregnancy at an advanced age, we see prefigured the whole of the Church's action in support of life that is in need of care.