Those Suffering from AIDS. That society may care for those stricken with AIDS, especially women and children, and that the Church may help them feel the Lord's love.
"My sister is six years old. There are no grown-ups living with us. I need a bathroom tap and clothes and shoes. And water also, inside the house. But especially somebody to tuck me and my sister in at night-time."
So 13-year-old Apiwe of sub-Saharan Africa describes the life of AIDS orphans. These orphans suffer emotionally as well as physically. Their legal rights and inherited property are often usurped by adults. Deemed high-risk and written off, they are often neglected by medical and educational institutions.
Since 1988, December 1 has been known as World AIDS Day. Aware of that, Pope Benedict's prayer intention reflects his concern about the problem and its most vulnerable victims, women and children. He asks us to pray that society meet its responsibilities toward AIDS victims and that the Church may help them know God's love.
Just in terms of children in Africa, we are praying for about 15 million who have been orphaned by AIDS. About a half-million of those children will have contracted AIDS/HIV through their mothers. We pray in particular for the Stop AIDS in Children campaign in its efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
According to the Catholic Bishops of Africa, the way forward is prevention and care. But they remind us that it will take more than a mere medical solution. "The God of Jesus Christ must be known, believed in, and loved…if progress is to be made."
The lepers of Jesus' day were highly contagious, socially outcast, and medically hopeless. How did Jesus respond to them?
Matthew 8:2-3 — "And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said, ‘Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.' He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I will do it. Be made clean.' His leprosy was cleansed immediately."
Asia. That the incarnation of the Son of God may help the peoples of Asia recognize Jesus as God's Envoy, the only Savior of the world.
In his 2007 letter to the Church in China, Pope Benedict repeated a prophecy Pope John Paul II made in 1999: "Just as during the first Christian millennium the Cross was planted in Europe and during the second in the American continent and in Africa, so during the third millennium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in the vast and vibrant Asian continent."
As the Pope's own prayer group, we Apostles of Prayer respond with joy to our Holy Father's prophecy for Asia. May Asia's many souls come to recognize Jesus, God's Son, as their own Savior. May Asians know the love of God in ways surpassing even what we have known.
So far the political and religious establishments of the East have hindered the spread of Christianity there. Conversions to Christ go slowly when people already possess a well developed cultural identity. Nevertheless, in this time of unprecedented global communication, we hope for new openness to Jesus throughout Asia.
And why not? Jesus himself was Asian, as Pope John Paul reminded us. Pope Benedict recognizes that Jesus' identity is the heart of faith. His uniqueness as true God and true man puts him outside ordinary frames of reference for most Asians — indeed, for all people, including us. By grace we come to recognize him as our Lord and our God.
Let's join the Holy Father in praying for the conversion of Asia. May the people of Asia develop a hunger to know the Living God.
How does Jesus fully reveal to us who God is and what it means to be human?
Hebrews 1:1-2: "In times past God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe."
Daily Offering Prayer
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.
Prayer of the Month
O good and gracious God of health and wholeness, in the plan of your creation you call us to struggle in our sickness and to cling always to the cross of your Son. Many of us are now suffering with HIV or AIDS. We come before you and ask you to take this suffering away. If it is your holy will, restore us to health and lead us to know you and your powerful healing love of body and spirit.
We ask you also to be with those of us who nurse your sick ones. We are the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, and friends of your suffering people. Help us to minister in loving care, support, and patience for your people who suffer with HIV and AIDS. Amen.
(adapted prayer of the National African American Catholic HIV/AIDS Task Force)