“Mary’s life testifies that God does not deceive us, or abandon his people, even in moments or situations when it might seem that he is not there.”
Pope Francis said this to the people of Paraguay during the Mass he celebrated at the Marian Sanctuary of Caacupé near Asuncion this morning. The Pope is making an Apostolic Visit to the Latin American countries of Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay, July 5-13, with Paraguay being his final stop.
The Argentine Pontiff began his homily, saying, “Being here with you makes me feel at home, at the feet of our Mother, the Virgin of Miracles of Caacupé.”
“In every shrine,” he went on to say, “we, her children, encounter our Mother and are reminded that we are brothers and sisters.” He said shrines are places of festival, of encounter, of family, where we not only “come to present our needs,” but also “to give thanks, to ask forgiveness and to begin again.”
“We come bringing our lives, because here we are at home and it is wonderful to know there is someone waiting for us,” he said.
This shrine, the first Pope from the Americas observed, is a vital part of the Paraguayan people. “Today, gathered at the Mother’s feet, all faithful wish to offer her our love and our faith,” he said.
In the Gospel, the Pope recounted, the angel greets Mary and says: ‘Rejoice, full of grace. The Lord is with you.’ Francis explained that Mary didn’t fully understand what was happening, but because she knew that the angel came from God, she said yes.
“Mary is the Mother of Yes. Yes to God’s dream, yes to God’s care, yes to God’s will,” Pope Francis said.
The Argentine Pope went on to stress that it was a ‘yes’ that, “as we know, was not easy to live.” Simeon told her in his prophecy: “a sword will pierce your heart” (Lk 2:35), and indeed it did, he noted. In pondering the prophecy, Francis reflected briefly on three difficult moments in Mary’s life.
The first was the birth of Jesus. He recalled how there was no room, no house, no place for Mary and Joseph to receive their Son, and that the only place available was a stall of animals.
“Surely she remembered the words of the angel: ‘Rejoice, Mary, the Lord is with you.’. She might well have asked herself: ‘Where is he now?’” the Pope said.
The second was the flight to Egypt in which they had to leave and go into exile. “There too,” Francis said, “she might well have asked: ‘What happened to all those things promised by the angel?’”
The third moment was Jesus’ death on the Cross, the 78-year-old Pontiff said, adding, “There can be no more difficult experience for a mother than to witness the death of her child. It is heartbreaking.”
Why we love her so much
How Mary accepted these moments is “why we love her so much,” Francis said. “We find in her a true Mother, one who helps us to keep faith and hope alive in the midst of complicated situations.”
When we look at her life, the Pope said, we feel understood and heard. With her, we can sit down and pray, using a common language in the face of the countless situations we encounter each day.
He urged those gathered to tell Mary what is happening in our lives because she understands. In Mary’s having believed, she is, the Pontiff stressed, “the woman of faith” and “the Mother of the Church.” Mary, the Pope stressed, was the first of her Son’s disciples and, in moments of difficulty, she kept alive the hope of the apostles.
In this land, the Latin American Pope added, we also know that she is the Mother “who has stood beside us in so many difficult situations.”
This shrine to Mary shows she’s always at children’s side, he stressed, noting it “preserves and treasures the memory of a people who know that Mary is their Mother.” He said she has “always been at the side of her children,” even in our homes, schools, and hospitals.
“Why?” he asked. “Because Mary wanted to be in the midst of her people, with her children, with her family.”
As a good mother, he said, Mary does not abandon her children, but rather “always shows up wherever one of her children is in need.” He said, she is a Mother “who keeps saying to us: ‘Do whatever he tells you.'”
Mary, he underscored, doesn’t have a plan of her own and doesn’t come to tell us something new, but simply accompanies our faith with her own.
“Like Mary, the faithful of Paraguay have lived through many difficult situations which, in the eyes of the world, would seem to discredit all faith,” he said, noting how in spite of that they followed her example and continued believing against all hope.
“When all seemed to be falling apart,” the Pope reminded those present, “with Mary, you said: ‘Let us not be afraid, the Lord is with us; he is with our people, with our families; let us do what he tells us.’”
“Yours is a faith which has become life, a life which has become hope, and a hope which leads to eminent charity,” the Pope said.
Like Jesus, he exhorted, “May you be outstanding in love. May you be bearers of this faith, this life and this hope. May you continue to build these up in Paraguay’s present and for its future.”
Before going to the Sanctuary for the Mass, Pope Francis had visited “Ninos de Acosta Nu” Pediatric Hospital.
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