The Pope addressed the bishops of Mexico this afternoon on his first full day in the country, offering a mariological, pastoral and deeply philosophical reflection on their identity as a people, a nation and as a Church, springing from his own prayer and meditation on the gaze of the Virgin.
Basing himself on the richness of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Holy Father considered three characteristics of the interchange of gazes that happens before her, affirming his desire to gaze upon her and to be gazed upon by her.
The Pope considered the deep significance to this mirada (gaze), saying that by looking into her eyes, he is “able to follow the gaze of her sons and daughters who, in her, have learned to express themselves.”
“I have reflected greatly on the mystery of this gaze and I ask you to receive in these moments what pours forth from my heart,” he said.
The Holy Father spoke to the bishops for some 50 minutes, largely following his text.
The only significant departure from his prepared words was an exhortation to communion and union as bishops: “This is essential, brothers,” he exclaimed. “This isn’t in the text, but it comes to mind now. If you have to argue, argue, if you have to say something say it, but as men — not behind the other’s back — and as men of God, who can pray together, who can discern together. And if you went too far, ask forgiveness, but maintain the unity of the episcopal body.”
In a Mother’s care
The Pope said that “no other voice can speak so powerfully to me of the Mexican heart as the Blessed Mother can.”
He spoke of Mary’s lap, a place of rest that has given life to Mexico throughout its complex history.
“I invite you to begin anew from that need for a place of rest which wells up from the spirit of your people,” he told the bishops. “The restful place of the Christian faith is capable of reconciling a past, often marked by loneliness, isolation and rejection, with a future, continually relegated to a tomorrow which just slips away. Only in that place of faith can we, without renouncing our own identity, ‘discover the profound truth of the new humanity, in which all are called to be children of God.’”
He told the bishops to “bow down then, quietly and respectfully, towards the profound spirit of your people, go down with care and decipher its mysterious face.”
The Holy Father affirmed the need for the bishops to set an example of first having been with God, so as to lead the people to God.
“Be bishops who have a pure vision, a transparent soul, and a joyful face,” he said. “Do not fear transparency. The Church does not need darkness to carry out her work.”
“Observing your faces, the Mexican people have the right to witness the signs of those ‘who have seen the Lord,’” he continued.
“Can we really be concerned with affairs that are not the Father’s?,” he asked.
“Away from the ‘Father’s affairs’ we lose our identity and, through our own fault, through our own fault,” he repeated, “empty his grace of meaning.”
Pope Francis decried the problem of commercializing death and said that the bishops shouldn’t underestimate the “moral and antisocial challenge which the drug trade represents for Mexican society as a whole, as well as for the Church,” saying it “devours like a metastasis.”
He called the bishops to courage and to a reliable pastoral plan to help the people “finally escape the raging waters that drown so many, either victims of the drug trade or those who stand before God with their hands drenched in blood, though with pockets filled with sordid money and their consciences deadened.”
The Pope told the bishops to build on the fathers of faith of Mexico, who first learned and then taught “the grammar needed to dialogue with God.”
“Imitate [Jesus’] gracious humility and his bowing down to help us,” he said, adding that we can never be thankful enough that God used “the mestizo threads of our people,” to weave the face that reveals him.
“Never cease to remind your people of how powerful their ancient roots are, roots which have allowed a vibrant Christian synthesis of human, cultural and spiritual unity which was forged here,” he said.
“May your vision, always and solely resting upon Christ, be capable of contributing to the unity of the people in your care; of favouring the reconciliation of its differences and the integration of its diversities; of promoting a solution to its endogenous problems; of remembering the high standards which Mexico can attain when it learns to belong to itself rather than to others; of helping to find shared and sustainable solutions to its misfortunes; of motivating the entire nation to not be content with less than what is expected of a Mexican way of living in the world.”
The Bishop of Rome encouraged the bishops to be close to each member of their flocks, in a special way the priests.
“As the wonderful Guadalupana tradition teaches us, la Morenita gathers together those who contemplate her, and reflects the faces of those who find her.”
The Holy Father told them to give themselves tirelessly and fearlessly to the task of evangelization, despite the many challenges of the mission.
“Dear brothers,” he concluded, “the Pope is sure that Mexico and its Church will make it in time to that rendezvous with themselves, with history and with God. Perhaps some stone on the way may slow their pace and the struggle of the journey may call for rest, but nothing will make them lose sight of the destination. For how can someone arrive late when it is their mother who is waiting? Who is unable to hear within themselves that voice, ‘am I not here, I who am your Mother’?”
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