Francis Homilies - HOLY MASS FOR THE MARIAN DAY ON THE OCCASION OF THE YEAR OF FAITH Saint Peter's Square, Sunday, 13 October 2013
In the Psalm we said: “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things” (Ps 98,1).
Today we consider one of the marvellous things which the Lord has done: Mary! A lowly and weak creature like ourselves, she was chosen to be the Mother of God, the Mother of her Creator.
Considering Mary in the light of the readings we have just heard, I would like to reflect with you on three things: first,God surprises us, second, God asks us to be faithful, and third, God is our strength.
1. First: God surprises us. The story of Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, is remarkable. In order to be healed of leprosy, he turns to the prophet of God, Elisha, who does not perform magic or demand anything unusual of him, but asks him simply to trust in God and to wash in the waters of the river. Not, however, in one of the great rivers of Damascus, but in the little stream of the Jordan. Naaman is left surprised, even taken aback. What kind of God is this who asks for something so simple? He wants to turn back, but then he goes ahead, he immerses himself in the Jordan and is immediately healed (cf. 2R 5,1-4). There it is: God surprises us. It is precisely in poverty, in weakness and in humility that he reveals himself and grants us his love, which saves us, heals us and gives us strength. He asks us only to obey his word and to trust in him.
This was the experience of the Virgin Mary. At the message of the angel, she does not hide her surprise. It is the astonishment of realizing that God, to become man, had chosen her, a simple maid of Nazareth. Not someone who lived in a palace amid power and riches, or one who had done extraordinary things, but simply someone who was open to God and put her trust in him, even without understanding everything: “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Lc 1,38). That was her answer. God constantly surprises us, he bursts our categories, he wreaks havoc with our plans. And he tells us: Trust me, do not be afraid, let yourself be surprised, leave yourself behind and follow me!
Today let us all ask ourselves whether we are afraid of what God might ask, or of what he does ask. Do I let myself be surprised by God, as Mary was, or do I remain caught up in my own safety zone: in forms of material, intellectual or ideological security, taking refuge in my own projects and plans? Do I truly let God into my life? How do I answer him?
2. In the passage from Saint Paul which we have heard, the Apostle tells his disciple Timothy: Remember Jesus Christ; if we persevere with him, we will also reign with him (cf. 2Tm 2,8-13). This is the second thing: to remember Christ always – to be mindful of Jesus Christ – and thus to persevere in faith. God surprises us with his love, but he demands that we be faithful in following him. We can be unfaithful, but he cannot: he is “the faithful one” and he demands of us that same fidelity. Think of all the times when we were excited about something or other, some initiative, some task, but afterwards, at the first sign of difficulty, we threw in the towel. Sadly, this also happens in the case of fundamental decisions, such as marriage. It is the difficulty of remaining steadfast, faithful to decisions we have made and to commitments we have made. Often it is easy enough to say “yes”, but then we fail to repeat this “yes” each and every day. We fail to be faithful.
Mary said her “yes” to God: a “yes” which threw her simple life in Nazareth into turmoil, and not only once. Any number of times she had to utter a heartfelt “yes” at moments of joy and sorrow, culminating in the “yes” she spoke at the foot of the Cross. Here today there are many mothers present; think of the full extent of Mary’s faithfulness to God: seeing her only Son hanging on the Cross. The faithful woman, still standing, utterly heartbroken, yet faithful and strong.
And I ask myself: Am I a Christian by fits and starts, or am I a Christian full-time? Our culture of the ephemeral, the relative, also takes it toll on the way we live our faith. God asks us to be faithful to him, daily, in our everyday life. He goes on to say that, even if we are sometimes unfaithful to him, he remains faithful. In his mercy, he never tires of stretching out his hand to lift us up, to encourage us to continue our journey, to come back and tell him of our weakness, so that he can grant us his strength. This is the real journey: to walk with the Lord always, even at moments of weakness, even in our sins. Never to prefer a makeshift path of our own. That kills us. Faith is ultimate fidelity, like that of Mary.
3. The last thing: God is our strength. I think of the ten lepers in the Gospel who were healed by Jesus. They approach him and, keeping their distance, they call out: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Lc 17,13). They are sick, they need love and strength, and they are looking for someone to heal them. Jesus responds by freeing them from their disease. Strikingly, however, only one of them comes back, praising God and thanking him in a loud voice. Jesus notes this: ten asked to be healed and only one returned to praise God in a loud voice and to acknowledge that he is our strength. Knowing how to give thanks, to give praise for everything that the Lord has done for us.
Take Mary. After the Annunciation, her first act is one of charity towards her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth. Her first words are: “My soul magnifies the Lord”, in other words, a song of praise and thanksgiving to God not only for what he did for her, but for what he had done throughout the history of salvation. Everything is his gift. If we can realize that everything is God’s gift, how happy will our hearts be! Everything is his gift. He is our strength! Saying “thank you” is such an easy thing, and yet so hard! How often do we say “thank you” to one another in our families? These are essential words for our life in common. “Sorry”, “excuse me”, “thank you”. If families can say these three things, they will be fine. “Sorry”, “excuse me”, “thank you”. How often do we say “thank you” in our families? How often do we say “thank you” to those who help us, those close to us, those at our side throughout life? All too often we take everything for granted! This happens with God too. It is easy to approach the Lord to ask for something, but to go and thank him: “Well, I don’t need to”.
As we continue our celebration of the Eucharist, let us invoke Mary’s intercession. May she help us to be open to God’s surprises, to be faithful to him each and every day, and to praise and thank him, for he is our strength. Amen.
* * *
Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima,
with renewed gratitude for your motherly presence
we join in the voice of all generations that call you blessed.
We celebrate in you the great works of God,
who never tires of lowering himself in mercy over humanity,
afflicted by evil and wounded by sin,
to heal and to save it.
Accept with the benevolence of a Mother
this act of entrustment that we make in faith today,
before this your image, beloved to us.
We are certain that each one of us is precious in your eyes
and that nothing in our hearts has estranged you.
May that we allow your sweet gaze
to reach us and the perpetual warmth of your smile.
Guard our life with your embrace:
bless and strengthen every desire for good;
give new life and nourishment to faith;
sustain and enlighten hope;
awaken and animate charity;
guide us all on the path to holiness.
Teach us your own special love for the little and the poor,
for the excluded and the suffering,
for sinners and the wounded of heart:
gather all people under you protection
and give us all to your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus.
Thursday, 24 October 2013
Beloved Brothers and Sons,
Let us consider attentively the great responsibility to which these brothers of ours have been called in the Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was sent by the Father to redeem the human race, in turn sent the Twelve Apostles into the world so that filled with the power of the Holy Spirit they might preach the Gospel to all people and unite them under one Shepherd, and that they might sanctify them and guide them to salvation.
In order to perpetuate this apostolic ministry from one generation to the next, the Twelve chose other men to share in their work. Through the laying on of hands, they passed on to them the gift of the Spirit which they themselves had received from Christ, thereby conferring the fullness of the Sacrament of Orders. Thus, through an uninterrupted succession of bishops this earliest ministry has been preserved in the living Tradition of the Church, and the work of the Saviour continues and develops to our own day. In the bishop surrounded by his priests, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest, is present in your midst.
For it is Christ who, through the ministry of the bishop, continues to preach the Gospel of salvation and to sanctify believers by means of the sacraments of faith. It is Christ who, through the paternal role of the bishop, draws new members to his body which is the Church. It is Christ who, in the wisdom and prudence of the bishop, guides the People of God along their pilgrimage here on earth until at last they reach eternal bliss.
Therefore, welcome with gratitude and joy, these brothers of ours whom we bishops are about to receive into the episcopal college by the laying on of hands. Render them the honour that is owed to the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God, to whom the testimony of the Gospel and the ministry of the Spirit for sanctification has been entrusted. Remember the words of Jesus to the Apostles: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me”.
And you, Jean-Marie and Giampiero, elect of the Lord, consider that you have been chosen from among men and for men; you have been appointed to the things pertaining to God. Indeed, “episcopacy” is the name of a service and not of an honour. The bishop must strive to serve rather than to rule, according to the Master’s commandment: “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all”. Always serving, always.
Proclaim the Word at every opportunity: in season and out of season. Admonish, rebuke, and exhort unfailing in patience and in teaching. And through prayer and the offering of sacrifice for your people, draw upon the fullness of Christ’s holiness the manifold riches of divine grace. Through prayer. Remember the first conflict in the Church of Jerusalem, when the bishops had so much work to do in caring for widows and orphans. They decided to appoint deacons. Why? So that they might pray and preach the Word. A bishop who does not pray is a bishop only halfway. And if he does not pray to the Lord, he ends up in worldliness.
Be faithful guardians and dispensers of the mysteries of Christ in the church entrusted to you. You are placed by the Father at the head of his family; therefore, always follow the example of the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep and is known by them and for them did not hesitate to lay down his life.
The love of the bishop: love, love all of those who are entrusted to you with the love of a father and a brother. First, love the priests and deacons. They are your collaborators, they are the closest of the close, for you. Never make a priest wait. If he asks for an audience, respond to him immediately! Be close to them. But also love the poor, the defenceless and all those who need to be welcomed and assisted. Exhort the faithful to work with you in the apostolic task and listen willingly to them.
Pay great attention to those who do not yet belong to the one fold of Christ; they too are commended to you in the Lord. Pray much for them. Remember that in the Catholic Church, made one by the bond of charity, you are incorporated into the college of bishops and you must have a constant concern for all the Churches and gladly come to the aid and support of those which are most in need.
And watch lovingly over the whole flock, among whom the Holy Spirit appoints you to govern the Church of God. Keep watch in the name of the Father, whose image you make present; in the name of Jesus Christ, his Son, by whom you have been constituted teachers, priests and shepherds; in the name of the Holy Spirit, who gives life to the Church and sustains us in our weakness. So be it!
The readings this Sunday invite us to reflect on some basic features of the Christian family.
1. First: the family prays. The Gospel passage speaks about two ways of praying, one is false – that of the Pharisee – and the other is authentic – that of the tax collector. The Pharisee embodies an attitude which does not express thanksgiving to God for his blessings and his mercy, but rather self-satisfaction. The Pharisee feels himself justified, he feels his life is in order, he boasts of this, and he judges others from his pedestal. The tax collector, on the other hand, does not multiply words. His prayer is humble, sober, pervaded by a consciousness of his own unworthiness, of his own needs. Here is a man who truly realizes that he needs God’s forgiveness and his mercy.
The prayer of the tax collector is the prayer of the poor man, a prayer pleasing to God. It is a prayer which, as the first reading says, “will reach to the clouds” (Si 35,20), unlike the prayer of the Pharisee, which is weighed down by vanity.
In the light of God’s word, I would like to ask you, dear families: Do you pray together from time to time as a family? Some of you do, I know. But so many people say to me: But how can we? As the tax collector does, it is clear: humbly, before God. Each one, with humility, allowing themselves to be gazed upon by the Lord and imploring his goodness, that he may visit us. But in the family how is this done? After all, prayer seems to be something personal, and besides there is never a good time, a moment of peace… Yes, all that is true enough, but it is also a matter of humility, of realizing that we need God, like the tax collector! And all familes, we need God: all of us! We need his help, his strength, his blessing, his mercy, his forgiveness. And we need simplicity to pray as a family: simplicity is necessary! Praying the Our Father together, around the table, is not something extraordinary: it’s easy. And praying the Rosary together, as a family, is very beautiful and a source of great strength! And also praying for one another! The husband for his wife, the wife for her husband, both together for their children, the children for their grandparents….praying for each other. This is what it means to pray in the family and it is what makes the family strong: prayer.
2. The second reading suggests another thought: the family keeps the faith. The Apostle Paul, at the end of his life, makes a final reckoning and says: “I have kept the faith” (2Tm 4,7). But how did he keep the faith? Not in a strong box! Nor did he hide it underground, like the somewhat lazy servant. Saint Paul compares his life to a fight and to a race. He kept the faith because he didn’t just defend it, but proclaimed it, spread it, brought it to distant lands. He stood up to all those who wanted to preserve, to “embalm” the message of Christ within the limits of Palestine. That is why he made courageous decisions, he went into hostile territory, he let himself be challenged by distant peoples and different cultures, he spoke frankly and fearlessly. Saint Paul kept the faith because, in the same way that he received it, he gave it away, he went out to the fringes, and didn’t dig himself into defensive positions.
Here too, we can ask: How do we keep our faith as a family? Do we keep it for ourselves, in our families, as a personal treasure like a bank account, or are we able to share it by our witness, by our acceptance of others, by our openness? We all know that families, especially young families, are often “racing” from one place to another, with lots to do. But did you ever think that this “racing” could also be the race of faith? Christian families are missionary families. Yesterday in this square we heard the testimonies of missionary families. They are missionary also in everyday life, in their doing everyday things, as they bring to everything the salt and the leaven of faith! Keeping the faith in families and bringing to everyday things the salt and the leaven of faith.
3. And one more thought we can take from God’s word: the family experiences joy. In the responsorial psalm we find these words: “let the humble hear and be glad” (33/ Ps 34,2). The entire psalm is a hymn to the Lord who is the source of joy and peace. What is the reason for this gladness? It is that the Lord is near, he hears the cry of the lowly and he frees them from evil. As Saint Paul himself writes: “Rejoice always … The Lord is near” (Ph 4,4-5). I would like to ask you all a question today. But each of you keep it in your heart and take it home. You can regard it as a kind of “homework”. Only you must answer. How are things when it comes to joy at home? Is there joy in your family? You can answer this question.
Dear families, you know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well... True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey. But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God, the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all. And above all, a love which is patient: patience is a virtue of God and he teaches us how to cultivate it in family life, how to be patient, and lovingly so, with each other. To be patient among ourselves. A patient love. God alone knows how to create harmony from differences. But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centredness prevails and joy fades. But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society as a whole.
Dear families, always live in faith and simplicity, like the Holy Family of Nazareth! The joy and peace of the Lord be always with you!
At this hour before sunset, we gather in this cemetery and think about our future, we think of all those who have departed, preceded us in life and are in the Lord.
The vision of Heaven we just have heard described in the First Reading is very beautiful: the Lord God, beauty, goodness, truth, tenderness, love in its fullness. All of this awaits us. Those who have gone before us and who have died in the Lord are there. They proclaim that they have been saved not through their own works, though good works they surely did, but that they have been saved by the Lord: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Ap 7,10). It is he who save us, it is he who at the end of our lives takes us by the hand like a father, precisely to that Heaven where our ancestors are. One of the elders asks: “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?” (Ap 7,13). Who are these righteous ones, these saints who are in Heaven? The reply is: “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Ap 7,14).
We can enter heaven only thanks to the blood of the Lamb, thanks to the blood of Christ. Christ’s own blood has justified us, which has opened for us the gates of heaven. And if today we remember our brothers and sisters who have gone before us in life and are in Heaven, it is because they have been washed in the blood of Christ. This is our hope: the hope of Christ's blood! It is a hope that does not disappoint. If we walk with the Lord in life, he will never disappoint us!
In the Second Reading, we heard what the Apostle John said to his disciples: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason the world does not know us.... We are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1Jn 3,1-2). To see God, to be like God: this is our hope. And today, on All Saints’ Day and the first day that we commemorate the faithful departed, we need to think a little about this hope: this hope that accompanies us in life. The first Christians depicted hope with an anchor, as though life were an anchor cast on Heaven’s shores and all of us journeying to that shore, clinging to the anchor’s rope. This is a beautiful image of hope: to have our hearts anchored there, where our beloved predecessors are, where the Saints are, where Jesus is, where God is. This is the hope that does not disappoint; today and tomorrow are days of hope.
Hope is a little like leaven that expands our souls. There are difficult moments in life, but with hope the soul goes forward and looks ahead to what awaits us. Today is a day of hope. Our brothers and sisters are in the presence of God and we shall also be there, through the pure grace of the Lord, if we walk along the way of Jesus. The Apostle John concludes: “every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1Jn 3,3). Hope also purifies us, it lightens us; this purification in hope in Jesus Christ makes us go in haste, readily. Today before evening falls each one of us can think of the twilight of life: “What will my passing away be like?”. All of us will experience sundown, all of us! Do we look at it with hope? Do we look with that joy at being welcomed by the Lord? This is a Christian thought that gives us hope. Today is a day of joy; however it is serene and tranquil joy, a peaceful joy. Let us think about the passing away of so many of our brothers and sisters who have preceded us, let us think about the evening of our life, when it will come. And let us think about our hearts and ask ourselves: “Where is my heart anchored?”. If it is not firmly anchored, let us anchor it beyond, on that shore, knowing that hope does not disappoint because the Lord Jesus does not disappoint.
At the conclusion of the celebration, following the prayers for the faithful departed, the Holy Father added the following words:
I would also like to pray in a special way for our brothers and sisters who died recently while seeking freedom and a more dignified life. We have seen the images, the cruelty of the desert, we have seen the sea where so many drowned. Let us pray for them. And let us also pray for those who survived, and who at this time are crowded in reception places, hoping that legal procedures will be carried out speedily so that they might be able to go elsewhere, somewhere more comfortable, to other centres where they will be welcomed.
Vatican Basilica, Altar of the Chair
In the spiritual atmosphere of the month of November, which is marked by the remembrance of the faithful departed, we remember our brother Cardinals and Bishops from around the world who have returned to the Father’s house during this last year. As we offer this Holy Eucharist for each one of them, let us ask the Lord to grant them the heavenly reward promised to his good and faithful servants.
We have listened to the words of St Paul: “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm 8,38-39).
The Apostle presents the love of God as the deepest and most compelling reason for Christian trust and hope. He lists the opposing and mysterious forces that can threaten the journey of faith. But immediately he states with confidence that even if our entire life is surrounded by threats, nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love which Christ himself has obtained for us by his total self-gift. Even the demonic powers, which are hostile to man, stand powerless before the intimate union of love that exists between Jesus and whoever receives him in faith. This reality of the faithful love that God has for each one of us helps us to face life’s daily journey, which sometimes passes quickly and at other times is slow and laborious, with serenity and strength.
Only man’s sin can break this bond, and yet even in this case God will always seek man, he will run after him in order to reestablish a union with him that endures even after death; indeed, a union that reaches its culmination in the final encounter with the Father. This certitude gives new and full meaning to earthly life and opens us to hope for life beyond death.
In fact, every time we are faced with the death of a loved one or of someone whom we knew well, the question arises within us: “What will become of his life, his work, his service in the Church?”. The Book of Wisdom tells us: they are in the hands of God! The hand is a sign of welcome and protection, it is a sign of a personal relationship of respect and faithfulness: to give a hand, to shake someone’s hand. Now, these zealous pastors who have dedicated their lives to the service of God and their brothers, are in the hands of God. All that concerns them is well cared for and will not be corroded by death. All of their days, interwoven as they were with joy and suffering, hope and struggle, faithfulness to the Gospel and passion for the spiritual and material salvation of the flock entrusted to them, are in the hands of God.
Even their sins, our sins, are in the hands of God; those merciful hands, those hands “wounded” by love. It was not by chance that Jesus willed to preserve the wounds in his hands to enable us to know and feel his mercy. And this is our strength, our hope.
This reality, full of hope, is the prospect of the final resurrection, of eternal life to which the “just”, those who receive the Word of God and are docile to his Spirit, are destined.
This is how we want to remember our deceased brother Cardinals and Bishops. As men devoted to their vocation and to their service to the Church, who have loved as one loves a bride. In prayer let us entrust them to the Lord’s mercy, through the intercession of Our Lady and St Joseph, that he may receive them into his Kingdom of light and peace, there where the just and those who were faithful witnesses of the Gospel live eternally. And let us also pray for ourselves, that the Lord may prepare us for this encounter. We do not know the date, but we do know that the encounter will come.
TITULAR BISHOP OF VILLAMAGNA DI PROCONSOLARE,
SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE GOVERNORATE OF VATICAN CITY STATE
By L'Osservatore Romano , Weekly ed. in English, n. 47
Pope Francis entrusted a special task to the newly ordained Bishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga LC, Secretary General of the Governorate of Vatican City State, charging him with “the pastoral care of Vatican employees”. The Pope called the Spanish prelate to be for them both “a father and a brother... with true love and tenderness”.
At the ceremony — which was held on Friday afternoon, 15 November, in St Peter’s Basilica — the Pope gave the customary homily provided in the Italian edition of the Roman Pontifical for the ordination of bishops to which he added a few personal remarks. Present at the ordination were many employees of the Governorate and of the Holy See, in addition to about 600 Legionaries of Christ, who are confreres of the new Bishop.
The Bishop of Rome invited the bishop of Spain — who began serving as Secretary General on 30 October — to follow the example of the Good Shepherd “who knows his sheep, is known by them and for whom he did not hesitate to give his life”. It is the love “of a father and brother” for “all those who God entrusts to you”, Pope Francis added, “most of all for priests, deacons and your collaborators in the ministry” but also for “the poor, the defenseless, and those who are in need of acceptance and help”. This must be carried out without forgetting “to exhort the faithful to cooperate in the apostolic duty, listening to them willingly”.
The Holy Father then underlined how an episcopate is “a service, not an honour”, since the bishop’s “duty is one of service more than dominion”, according to the commandment of the Teacher: ‘let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves’”. Pope Francis invited Bishop Vérgez Alzaga to reflect on the fact that he has been chosen “among men and for men” and “charged with the things that regard God”.
In the presence of 18 cardinals, including the Dean of the College of Cardinals Angelo Sodano and 33 bishops, who concelebrated, Pope Francis invited the newly ordained Bishop to remember that “in the Catholic Church, gathered in the bond of charity, you are united to the College of Bishops and you must bear the concern for all the Churches, generously aiding those most in need”. He then asked him especially to keep watch “with great love and great mercy over the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit calls you to support the Church of God”.
Archbishop Angelo Becciu, Substitute of the Secretariat of State, presented the candidate to the Holy Father on behalf of the Church, requesting him for the episcopal ordination. Also presiding at the ordination were Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, President of the Governorate, and Bishop Brian Farrell, Legionary of Christ and Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The liturgical service was carried out by a dozen Legionaries of Christ and various family members of Bishop Vérgez Alzaga who presented the gifts at the offertory. Also concelebrating at the Rite were Cardinals De Paolis, Lajolo, Coppa, Herranz and Montezemolo. Among the concelebrants were many bishops and prelates of the Roman Curia, including Msgr Peter Bryan Wells, Assessor of the Secretariat of State. The Sistine Chapel Choir conducted by Msgr Massimo Palombella and accompanied by the choir Mater Ecclesiae sang the hymns. The Pope entered the Vatican Basilica accompanied by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Papal Household.
Monastery of St Anthony the Abbot - Rome
Let us contemplate the one who knew and loved Jesus like no other creature. The Gospel that we heard reveals the fundamental way Mary expressed her love for Jesus: by doing the will of God. “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt 12,50). With these words Jesus leaves us an important message: the will of God is the supreme law which establishes true belonging to him. That is how Mary established a bond of kinship with Jesus even before giving birth to him. She becomes both disciple and mother to the Son at the moment she receives the words of the Angel and says: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Lc 1,38). This “let it be” is not only acceptance, but also a trustful openness to the future. This “let it be” is hope!
Mary is the mother of hope, the icon that most fully expresses Christian hope. The whole of her life is a series of episodes of hope, beginning with her “yes” at the moment of the Annunciation. Mary did not know how she could become a mother, but she entrusted herself totally to the mystery that was about to be fulfilled, and she became the woman of expectation and of hope. Then we see her in Bethlehem, where the One proclaimed to her as the Saviour of Israel and as the Messiah is born into poverty. Later, while she was in Jerusalem to present him in the Temple amid the joy of the elderly Simeon and Anna, a promise is also made that a sword will pierce her heart and a prophecy foretells that he will be a sign of contradiction. She realizes that the mission and the very identity of this Son surpasses her own motherhood. We then come to the episode of Jesus who is lost in Jerusalem and is then called back: “Son, why have you treated us so?” (Lc 2,48), and to Jesus’ reply that takes away her motherly anxiety and turns to the things of the Heavenly Father.
Yet in the face of all these difficulties and surprises in God’s plan, the Virgin’s hope is never shaken! The woman of hope. This tells us that hope is nourished by listening, contemplation and patience until the time of the Lord is ripe. Again at the wedding in Cana, Mary is the mother of hope, which makes her attentive and solicitous to human affairs. With the start of his public ministry, Jesus becomes the Teacher and the Messiah: Our Lady looks upon the mission of the Son with exultation but also with apprehension, because Jesus becomes ever more that sign of contradiction foretold by the elderly Simeon. At the foot of the Cross, she is at once the woman of sorrow and of watchful expectation of a mystery far greater than sorrow which is about to be fulfilled. It seemed that everything had come to an end; every hope could be said to have been extinguished. She too, at that moment, remembering the promises of the Annunciation could have said: they did not come true, I was deceived. But she did not say this. And so she who was blessed because she believed, sees blossom from her faith a new future and awaits God’s tomorrow with expectation. At times I think: do we know how to wait for God’s tomorrow? Or do we want it today? For her the tomorrow of God is the dawn of Easter morning, the dawn of the first day of the week. It would do us good to think, in contemplation, of the embrace of mother and son. The single lamp lit at the tomb of Jesus is the hope of the mother, which in that moment is the hope of all humanity. I ask myself and I ask you: is this lamp still alight in monasteries? In your monasteries are you waiting for God’s tomorrow?
We owe so much to this Mother! She is present at every moment in the history of salvation, and in her we see a firm witness to hope. She, the mother of hope, sustains us in times of darkness, difficulty, discouragement, of seeming defeat or true human defeat. May Mary, our hope, help us to make of our lives a pleasing offering to the Heavenly Father, and a joyful gift for our brothers and sisters, in an attitude that always looks forward to tomorrow.
Francis Homilies - HOLY MASS FOR THE MARIAN DAY ON THE OCCASION OF THE YEAR OF FAITH Saint Peter's Square, Sunday, 13 October 2013