Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore this morning, Jan. 28, 2018, Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, on the occasion of the Feast of the Translation of the Icon of the Salus Populi Romani. Here is a ZENIT translation of the homily the Pope gave in the course of the Holy Mass.
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As a people of God on their way, we are here to stand in the temple of the Mother. The presence of the Mother makes this temple a family home to us children. Together with generations of Romans, we recognize in this maternal house, our home, the house where we find refreshment, comfort, protection, [and] shelter. The Christian people have understood, from the beginning, that in the difficulties and trials, we must resort to the Mother, as indicated by the most ancient Marian antiphon: Under your protection we seek refuge, Holy Mother of God: do not despise the supplications of us who are undergoing trials, but deliver us from all danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.
We are looking for refuge. Our Fathers in the faith have taught that in turbulent moments, we must gather under the mantle of the Holy Mother of God. Once the persecuted and the needy sought from the noble, high-ranking women, refuge; yet they stretched out their cloaks, which were considered inviolable, as a sign of reception, for they granted protection. Similarly, we see this with us and Our Lady, the highest woman of mankind. Her coat is always open to welcome us and gather us. The Christian East reminds us of this, where many celebrate the protection of the Mother of God, who is depicted in a beautiful icon, where she with her mantle, shelters her children and covers the whole world. Even the ancient monks recommended, in trials, to take refuge under the mantle of the Holy Mother of God: to invoke her – “Holy Mother of God” -this prayer, and repeating it was already a guarantee of protection and help: “Holy Mother of God”, ” Holy Mother of God “… Only in this way.
This wisdom, which comes from afar, helps us: the Mother guards faith, protects relationships, saves us in the storms and preserves from evil. When Mary is in the home, the devil does not enter. Where Mary is in the home, the devil does not enter. Where there is the Mother, disturbance does not prevail, fear does not win. Who of us does not need this, who of us is not sometimes upset or restless? How often is the heart is a stormy sea, where the waves of problems overlap and winds of worry do not cease to blow! Mary is the sure ark in the midst of the flood. Ideas or technology will not give us comfort and hope, but what does is the face of the Mother, her hands that caress life, her mantle that shelters us. We learn to find refuge, going every day to the Mother.
Do not despise the petitions, the antiphon continues. When we plead to her, Mary pleads for us. There is a good title in Greek that says this: Grigorusa, that is to say “she who intercedes promptly”. This ‘promptly’ is the adjective that Luke uses in the Gospel to say how Mary went to Elizabeth: soon, promptly! She intercedes promptly, does not delay, as we have heard in the Gospel, where she immediately brings to Jesus the concrete need of the people: “They have no wine” (Jn 2: 3), nothing more! This is how it happens every time, if we invoke it: when we lack hope, when joy is scarce, when our strength is exhausted, when the star of life is obscured, the Mother intervenes. And if we invoke her, she intervenes more. She is attentive to our labors, sensitive to the turbulence – the turbulence of life -, close to the heart. And she never, never despises our prayers; she does not let even one fall. She is a Mother, she is never ashamed of us, she only waits to be able to help her children.
An episode can help us understand this. Next to a hospital bed, a mother watched over her son, in pain after an accident. That mother was always there, day and night. Once she complained to the priest, saying: “But the Lord has not allowed something to us mothers!” “What?” asked the priest. She answered: “[He has not allowed mothers] to take the pain of their children.” Here is the mother’s heart: she is not ashamed of the wounds, of the weaknesses of her children, but she wants them with him. And the Mother of God and ours knows how to take with her, console, watch, heal.
The antiphon continues with, free us from all danger. The Lord himself knows that we need shelter and protection in the midst of so many dangers. For this reason, at the highest moment, on the Cross, he said to the beloved disciple, to every disciple: “Behold your Mother!” (Jn 19:27). The Mother is not ‘optional,’ something ‘optional’, she is the testament of Christ. And we need her […] like a baby being carried in her arms. It is a great danger for the faith to to live without a Mother, without protection, letting ourselves be carried away by life like leaves from the wind. The Lord knows and tells us to welcome the Mother. It is not spiritual etiquette, it is a need for life. Loving her is not poetry, it is knowing how to live. Because without Mother, we cannot be children. And we, first of all, are children, beloved children, who have God for the Father and the Madonna for Mother.
The Second Vatican Council teaches that Mary is “a sign of certain hope and consolation for the pilgrim people of God” (Const Lumen Gentium, VIII, V). It is a sign, it is the sign that God has placed for us. If we do not follow it, we go astray. Because there is a signage of spiritual life, which must be observed. It indicates to us, “still wandering and placed in the midst of dangers and troubles” (ibid., 62), the Mother, who has already reached the goal. Who better than she can accompany us on the journey? What are we waiting for? Like the disciple who under the Cross welcomed the Mother with him, as said in the Gospel (Jn 19,27), we too, from this maternal house, invite Mary to our home, in our heart, in our life. We cannot be neutral or detached from the Mother, otherwise we lose our identity as children and our identity as a people, and we live a Christianity made up of ideas, programs, without trust, without tenderness, without heart. But without a heart, there is no love and faith risks becoming a beautiful tale of other times. The Mother, on the other hand, guards and prepares children. She loves them and protects them, so that they love and protect the world. Let’s make the Mother the guest of our daily life, the constant presence in our home, our safe haven. Let’s entrust all to her every day. Let’s invoke her in every turbulence. And let’s not forget to come back to her to thank her.
Now looking at her, having just left ‘the hospital’, let us look at her with tenderness and say hello to her as the Christians of Ephesus greeted her: All together, three times: “Holy Mother of God.” All together: “Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God”.
[Working Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]