Pope Francis celebrated the first Mass of his Apostolic Visit to Ecuador at Semanes Park in Guayaquil.
Excitement has been palpable since the Holy Father’s arrival. On Sunday, thousands were gathered outside the Apostolic Nunciature in Quito where he was staying on his first night, many joyfully shouting for the Pope to come outside.
To their surprise, the Holy Father stepped out and thanked them for their visit as well as asking them to “let the neighborhood sleep.” He also led them in praying the Hail Mary before blessing them and returning to the Nunciature.
Mercy and Care
This morning, the Holy Father once again boarded a plane and flew to Guayaquil where he presided over Mass at Semanes Park. An estimated 1 million people were expected to attend the open-air Mass.
Upon his arrival to Guayaquil, the 78-year-old Pontiff made a brief stop to the Shrine of Divine Mercy, where he laid a small bouquet and greeted the faithful present, leading them in a prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“Now I am going to celebrate the Mass and I carry all of you in my heart,” he said. “I am going to pray for each one of you. I am going to say to the Lord: ‘you know the names of those who were there.’ I am going to ask Jesus for mercy for each one of you, that he may cover you with mercy that he may care for you.”
Before departing to the site of the Mass, the Holy Father blessed them and thanked them for their Christian witness.
Despite temperatures reaching 33⁰ C (91⁰ F), the Holy Father showed no signs of slowing down, waving to thousands of faithful cheering and showering the popemobile’s path with flowers.
Service: The Sign of True Love
In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel, which recalled Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding of Cana. Citing Mary’s attentiveness to the lack of wine, which is a sign of joy, the Argentine Pontiff said that it shows the Blessed Mother’s concern for all.
“How many of our adolescents and young people sense that these are no longer found in their homes? How many women, sad and lonely, wonder when love left, when it slipped away from their lives? How many elderly people feel left out of family celebrations, cast aside and longing each day for a little love?” he asked. “This lack of ‘wine’ can also be due to unemployment, illness and difficult situations which our families may experience.”
“Mary is not a ‘demanding’ mother, a mother-in-law who revels in our lack of experience, our mistakes and the things we forget to do. Mary is simply a Mother! She is there, attentive and concerned.”
The Holy Father then invited the faithful to repeat the words: Mary is a mother several times, saying that “it is beautiful to hear this.”
Another aspect of the Blessed Mother’s intervention at the wedding was her confident approach towards Jesus. This, he noted, means to pray and to place problems in God’s hands.
“She teaches us to put our families in God’s hands, to pray, to kindle the hope which shows us that our concerns are also God’s concerns,” he said.
“Praying always lifts us out of our worries and concerns. It makes us rise above everything that hurts, upsets or disappoints us, and it puts us in the place of others, in their shoes. The family is a school where prayer also reminds us that we are not isolated individuals; we are one and we have a neighbor close at hand: he or she is living under the same roof, is a part of our life, and is in need.”
The final aspect of the Virgin Mary’s role at the wedding is her willingness to act. In telling the attendants: “Do whatever he tells you”, the Holy Father said that it also serves as an invitation to “open our hearts to Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served.”
These gestures, he continued, help to strengthen families. The Pope also stressed the role of the family as a domestic Church. In experiencing the love of parents, one can feel “the closeness of God’s love.”
“In the family, and of this we are all witnesses, miracles are performed with what little we have, with what we are, with what is at hand… many times, it is not ideal, it is not what we dreamt of, nor what ‘should have been,'” he said.
Reminding the faithful of the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the family, the Pontiff called on the faithful to pray for the Church in confronting “the many difficult and significant challenges facing families in our time.”
“I ask you to pray fervently for this intention, so that God can take even what might seem to us impure, scandalous or frightening, and turn it – by making it part of his ‘hour’ – into a miracle. The family today, needs this miracle,” he said.
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to not lose hope that God will always provide “the finest wine”, especially to those who feel lost.
“As Mary invites us, let us ‘do what he tells us’ and be thankful that in this, our time and our hour, the new wine, the finest wine, will make us recover the joy of being a family, the joy of living within a family,” he said.
— — —
On ZENIT’s website:
For the full text of the Pope’s homily, go to: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-homily-at-mass-in-semanes-park-guayaquil