Today, the liturgical feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass at 6 p.m. in St. Peter’s Basilica, and in his homily he recalled the strong and helpful faith of Mary, who knew how to enter into our history to be the salt and light of life and society. The Holy Father also mentioned a number of difficult situations in the American continent, which can paralyse or cast doubt on our faith, before which “to celebrate the memory of Mary is to assert against all odds that ‘in the heart and life of our peoples there is a strong sense of hope, notwithstanding conditions of life that seem to overshadow all hope’”.
The following is the full text of the Holy Father’s homily:
“Blessed is she who has believed”: with these words, Elizabeth anoints the presence of Mary in her house. Words born of her womb, that come from within; words that manage to echo all that she experienced with the visit of her cousin: “When the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed”.
God visits us in the womb of a woman, mobilising the womb of another woman with a song of blessing and praise, with a song of joy. The Gospel scene bears all the dynamism of the visit of God: when God comes to meet us He moves us inwardly, He sets in motion what we are until all our life is transformed into praise and blessing. When God visits us, He leaves us restless, with the healthy restlessness of those who feel they have been invited to proclaim what He lives, and is in the midst of His people. This is what we see in Mary, the first disciple and missionary, the new Ark of the Covenant who, far from remaining in the reserved space of our temples, goes out to visit and accompany with her presence the gestation of John. She did so also in 1531: she ran to Tepeyac to serve and accompany this People who were gestating in pain, becoming their Mother and that of all peoples.
With Elizabeth, today too we wish to anoint her and greet her by saying “Blessed is she who has believed”, and continue to believe in “a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord”. Mary is thus like an icon of the disciple, of the believing and prayerful woman who knows how to accompany and encourage our faith and our hope in the distinct stages we must go through. In Mary we find the faithful reflection not of a poetically sweetened faith, but of a strong faith especially at a time when the sweet enchantments of things are broken and there are contradictions in conflict everywhere.
We will certainly have to learn from that strong and helpful faith that characterised and characterises our Mother; to learn from this faith that knows how to get inside history so as to be salt and light in our lives and in society.
The society we are building for our children is increasingly marked by signs of division and fragmentation, leaving many people out of play, especially those who find it difficult to obtain the minimum necessary to lead a dignified life. A society that likes to vaunt its scientific and technological advances, but that has become blind and insensitive to the thousands of faces that are there along the way, excluded by the blind pride of the few. A society that ends up establishing a culture of disillusionment, disenchantment and frustration in many of our brothers, and even anguish in many others due as they experience the difficulties they need to face so as not to lose their way.
It would seem that, without realising, we have become used to living in a society of distrust, with all that this presupposes for our present and especially for our future; distrust that gradually engenders states of apathy and dispersion.
How difficult it is to boast of our society of wellbeing when we see that our dear American continent has become used to seeing thousands and thousands of children and young people on the streets, begging and sleeping in railway stations, in the subway or wherever they find space. Children and young people exploited in illegal work or driven to seeking a few coins at crossroads, cleaning the windshields of our cars … and they feel that the ‘train of life’ has no place for them. And how many families are scarred by the suffering of seeing their children made victims of the merchants of death. How hard it is to see how we have normalised the exclusion of our elderly, leaving them to live in solitude, simply because they are not productive, or to see, as the bishops in Aparecida well knew, “the precarious situation that affects the dignity of many women. Some, since childhood and adolescence, are subject to many forms of violence inside and outside the home”. They are situations that can paralyse us, that can cast doubt on our faith and especially our hope, our way of looking towards and facing the future.
Faced with all these situations, we must say with Elizabeth, “Blessed is she who has believed”, and to learn from this strong and helpful faith that characterised and characterises our Mother.
Celebrating Mary is, first and foremost, making memory of the mother, remembering that we are not and never will be an orphaned people. We have a Mother! And where there is the mother, there is always the presence and flavour of home. Where there is the mother, brothers may fight but the sense of unity will always prevail. Where there is the mother, the struggle for fraternity will not be lacking. I have always been impressed to see, in different peoples of Latin America, those struggling mothers who, often alone, manage to bring up their children. This is how Mary is. This is Mary with us: we are her children. A woman who fights against the society of mistrust and blindness, the society of apathy and dispersion; a woman who fights to strengthen the joy of the Gospel, who fights to give “flesh” to the Gospel.
To look at the Guadalupana is to recall that the visit of the Lord always passes through those who manage to “make flesh” His Word, who seek to embody the life of God within themselves, becoming living signs of His mercy.
To celebrate the memory of Mary is to assert against all odds that “in the heart and life of our peoples there is a strong sense of hope, notwithstanding conditions of life that seem to overshadow all hope”.
Mary, because she believed, loved; because she is the handmaid of the Lord and the servant of her brothers. Celebrating the memory of Mary is to celebrate that we, like her, are invited to go out and meet others with the same gaze, with the same mercy within, with their same gestures. To contemplate her is to feel the strong invitation to imitate her faith. Her presence leads us to reconciliation, giving us the strength to create bonds in our blessed Latin American land, saying “yes” to life and “no” to all kinds of indifference, exclusion, or the rejection of peoples and persons.
And let us not be afraid to go out and look upon others with the same gaze. A gaze that makes us brothers. We do so because, like Juan Diego, we know that here is our mother, we know that we are under her shadow and her protection, which is the source of our joy, and that we are in the cross of her arms.
Give us peace and wheat, our Lady and Child,
A homeland that unites home, Church and school,
A bread that is for all and a faith that burns,
Through your joined hands, and your eyes like stars. Amen.