Homily for the Mass of St. Alexis with the Alexian Brothers
February 12, 2020
Volière, Saint-Roch Chapel, Liège
Jean-Pierre Delville, bishop of Liège
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Alexian Brothers,
On the day after the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, which is also the World Day of the Sick, we meet here in this chapel of St. Roch, which for a long time served as a place of prayer for the sick and for the Alexian brothers. Still today this site of Volière is dedicated to the service of the mentally ill and psychiatric patients. And still today the chaplaincy services accompany the sick in an evangelical spirit. Today also the Alexian brothers, all over the world, are committed to the service of the sick, especially the mentally ill and psychiatric patients. They are inspired by Saint Alexis, who willingly shared the weak condition of the sick and the abandoned persons. That is why I thank the delegation of the Alexian brothers for being here with their general superior, Brother Lawrence Buttler. I thank you all for coming to the place of ministry of your brothers, who founded this house in 1519 and who have committed themselves generously to the service of the suffering population. I thank the friends of the Chapel of St. Roch of Volière for extending this invitation and for highlighting this chapel during this Jubilee Year. I thank them for promoting the restoration of this chapel and for reviving the memory of the Alexian-Cellite brothers who were the initiators of its foundation in a prophetic spirit of mercy, being pioneers in the care of psychiatric patients.
Jesus also wanted to be close to the sick. Thus he was not afraid to be close to the mentally ill man who lived in the cemetery of Gerasa, as we have heard in the Gospel (Mk 5:1-20). This sick man was in chains, but he had broken his chains and was tearing himself apart with stones. Jesus freed him from this trauma. He also wants to free all those who suffer in their bodies and hearts. He proclaimed: “Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). It is this Gospel passage that Pope Francis chose as the theme of his message for the Day of the Sick. « These words of Christ express the solidarity of the Son of Man with all those who are hurt and afflicted. How many people suffer in both body and soul! Jesus urges everyone to draw near to him – “Come to me!” – and he promises them comfort and repose.
“He looks upon a wounded humanity with eyes that gaze into the heart of each person”, said the Pope. “That gaze is not one of indifference; rather, it embraces people in their entirety, each person in his or her health condition, discarding no one, but rather inviting everyone to share in his life and to experience his tender love”. That is why Jesus looked with mercy at the sick man who was in the tombs in Gerasa and the sick man came close to Jesus. To us also, Jesus says this afternoon, ‘Come to me’.
The Pope then recalls different situations of illness: “There are so many kinds of grave suffering: incurable and chronic diseases, psychological diseases, situations calling for rehabilitation or palliative care, numerous forms of disability, children’s or geriatric disease”. Each of us this afternoon can bring before this altar the names of the sick people we know, or the fragile people we think of; each of us can bring before the Lord his own frailties, his own illnesses, his own sufferings.
Faced with these frailties and illnesses, the Pope continues: “What is needed is a personalized approach to the sick, not just of curing but also of caring, in view of an integral human healing”. You know what ‘caring’ means. It is what many of you practice. Many of you care for the sick people you know or meet.
Gerasa’s patient, once he was healed, wanted to follow Jesus. But Jesus said to him, “Go to your house to your people and tell them all that the Lord has done for you in his mercy”. The Lord also asks us to return to our homes, in the USA, in Germany, in Liege or elsewhere, and become his witnesses.
Let us thank the Lord who has allowed us to meet each other today in this place of mercy and prophecy and who invites us to be around us prophets of mercy.