Homily for the Feast of Our Lady, Mount’s Mary Basilica, Mumbai

Homily for the Feast of Our Lady, Mount’s Mary Basilica, Mumbai
September 8th 2013; 11.30 am

Readings: Micah 5:2-5a; Romans 8: 28-30; Mathew 1:18-23.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, dear children of our Blessed Mother,

We are gathered here today in this famous Basilica, to thank God and our Lady for the many graces each of us has received, and to bring to God and to Mary’s maternal heart our needs, pains, hopes and dreams, trusting that a mother’s heart knows our needs better than we do.

One of the beautiful and edifying things about this fascinating Country of India is this: while, sadly, devotion to Mary was in the past centuries a point of division among some of the churches in the West, here in India, devotion to Mary has been a rallying point for believers of all faiths. Marian shrines in India attract not only Catholics, but persons of all faiths. What a beautiful thing to see the love, reverence and devotion with which pious and good persons of different religions pray to our Blessed Mother and honour her. Many come because they have experienced the power of her intercession in guidance, protection and even miraculous healings.

I too come today to join you in honouring the Mother of Jesus. I come to pray with you for your many needs, material and spiritual. As Pope’s Representative in India, I bring to you the blessings and greetings of our Holy Father Pope Francis. Let us pray together for the whole Church in India. Let us pray for every citizen of this beloved country, wishing everyone happiness, peace and God’s blessings. Let us also pray in a special way for the gift of peace, especially for the gift of peace in Syria, in the Middle East and in every part of the world where there is violence, as the Holy Father Pope Francis summoned us to do all together yesterday, through fasting and prayer, in a special vigil service all over the world. Let us invoke Our Mother Mary as Queen of Peace asking her intercession for the grace of peace, harmony and reconciliation for those suffering population and for the entire world!

We form one family as God’s children, and our faith deepens and strengthens our commitment to serve all our brothers and sisters, whatever be their religion or caste or language or tribe. In coming together as Mary’s devotees and children, may we also come closer together in our mutual concern and support.

Mary is our Mother and our Teacher of faith! She does not point to herself, but to Jesus. We honour her, not because she is closer to us than God is. No, we honour her precisely because she is the best disciple, the most transparent example of what it means to follow Jesus and to do God’s will. Rightly understood, devotion to Mary helps us to be God-centered, as she was. It will not take us away from Christ, but it will lead us to follow better the path of Jesus. Mary is the best part of the Church, our sister, our mother of faith, our fellow disciple.

As we have heard from the Gospel of St. Mathew, just proclaimed, “the Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (Mt 1: 23). Yes, dear brothers and sisters, not only during her earthly life, but always and forever Mary conceives for us her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: she always brings Jesus to us and us to Jesus! As his mother, she bears Jesus, “conceives” Him and offers Him to mankind, as she did physically in Bethlehem two thousands year ago. At the same time, as our mother, she bears us, she “conceives” us to faith, and she offers us to God through Her son Jesus Christ.

It is easier to understand something deep when we see a real life model of it, rather than through complicated theories. In Mary, we have a beautiful, simple, practical summary of what it means to be Christian, of what it means to have faith! There are three aspects of this that I would like to mention today. These aspects are: mediation, sacramentality and communion. All three are essential to our Christian and Catholic identity, and they are concretely illustrated in the person of Mary.

Mediation: God normally reaches us and helps us through persons. We are all meant to be mediators of God’s love and goodness. Through us, God’s love and care can reach people. In this sense, not only Mary, but each of us is a mediator: someone helping others to experience God’s presence and action. We, like her, are called to be mediators of grace.

Sacramentality: The Church is eminently sacramental. The term sacrament means something external that signifies and brings about an invisible grace. Thus, we have seven special celebrations that we call sacraments. In a more general way, each of us is called to be a sacrament of God’s love: a visible, tangible bearer of God’s holiness and tender presence. This is what Mary was, and is, to an eminent degree: a visible sign of God’s grace. She was, and each of us should be, a sacrament of God’s love.

Communion: we experience God, and we go to God, not as isolated individuals, but as part of God’s family. We are called to be in communion with other human beings, and to promote communion of hearts and minds wherever we go. Mary is part of our communion of faith, and its best model. She helps us to be one in Christ, and to live in communion with Him. Her whole role is within the community of faith.

Finally, as the Holy Father Francis told us recently in his homily for the solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady, “Mary also experienced the martyrdom of the Cross: the martyrdom of her heart, the martyrdom of her soul. She lived her Son’s Passion to the depths of her soul. She was fully united to him in his death, and so she was given the gift of resurrection. Christ is the first fruits from the dead and Mary is the first of the redeemed, the first of “those who are in Christ”. She is our Mother, but we can also say that she is our representative, our sister, our eldest sister, she is the first of the redeemed, who has arrived in heaven”.

May each of us, too, be a loving mediator of God’s grace, a visible sacrament of God’s love, a transparent agent of caring communion, a joyful witness of the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ!

Mary set us a heroic example, and invites us to follow her example.
She continues to care for each of us, and invites us to trust.

She waits for us at Jesus’ side in our true Home, where one day, we will all gather around our most loving Father, to celebrate His merciful love for ever.

A very happy feast! A very holy life!

I wish and pray for every one of you to have a deep personal experience of God’s love and closeness, as Mary had. Let us support one another with humble prayer and sincere love. Let us all imitate Mary, our Mather of faith, in following Jesus every day of our life! Amen.