Homily, Sunday Mass, 8 September 2013, Cathedral of Bombay, 6.30 pm

Homily, Sunday Mass, 8 September 2013, Cathedral of Bombay, 6.30 pm

Readings: Wisdom 9:13-18b; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33.

Your Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Dear Archbishops and Bishops, priests, religious men and women, dear people of God,

I wish to express first of all, as I have done this morning while celebrating the Holy Mass in the beautiful Mount’s Mary Basilica, my heartfelt joy to be with you in these days to share with you the gift of faith and the joy of ecclesial communion, at the invitation of your beloved Archbishop, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, whom I warmly thank.

We have just heard the Readings of today, the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, and we would like to understand them in the light of the example of Mary, our Mother of Faith, whose birth we also celebrate today, September 8th.

Let me ask you, then, a simple question: Who is first in your life? Who is the most important person for you? To whom do you give the first place?

In today’s Gospel Jesus uses clear and strong language to tell us that we must put God first: “Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. … none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions” (Lk 14: 27; 33)

Although putting God first in own life may look like a hard task, actually it is something that will make us deeply happy. The reason is: our hearts are made for God, and nothing limited will satisfy it. Only God can fill it, as St. Augustine found, after looking for satisfaction in sense pleasures, fame and comfort.

In the second reading, Paul asks Philemon, a Christian slave-owner, to treat Onesimus, a slave who had run away, not as a slave, but as a brother. That was something unheard of in those days! Paul wants Philemon to do this willingly, not under a command. He wants Philemon to see that our faith in Jesus must be expressed in all our relationships.

The life and words of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, challenge us to live the Gospels with our whole heart. Why are so many people all over the world so taken up by this Pope? Because they see him living what Jesus taught, and they hear him speaking of Jesus and his message in simple, practical ways. He challenges us, for example, to come out of our indifference to the needs and sufferings of others. Here is a person for whom clearly God comes first. Hence his joy, his loving treatment of everyone, his detachment from opulence and selfishness. When God is truly the centre of our life, we will be marked by radical goodness, deep love and courage in living as Jesus taught. Our lives will radiate the joy that comes from a heart that has found its true home.

This is also, and mainly, the example of Our Mother Mary. She put always God at the first place, at the top of her interest, at the centre of her life: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word”. And to us, like she did with the servants at the wedding of Cana, she repeats: “Do whatever He tells you!”. Mary exhorts us to do what she did first: to do the will of God, to put Him at the first place of our interest and goals, to answer “yes!” to His call and to his invitation at the banquet of life! And to care for our neighbor with love and spirit of service!

As I have asked you at the beginning of this homily, the Holy Father Francis too, addressing the young people in Rio de Janeiro during the recent World Youth Day, asked them: “In whom do we place our trust? In ourselves, in material things, or in Jesus? We all have the temptation often to put ourselves at the centre, to believe that we are the axis of the universe, to believe that we alone build our lives or to think that our life can only be happy if built on possessions, money, or power”. Then, the Pope explained that “certainly, possessions, money and power can give a momentary thrill, the illusion of being happy, but they end up possessing us and making us always want to have more, never satisfied. And we end up “full”, but not nourished”.

The luminous conclusion of our Holy Father is formulated as a warm exhortation, that I like to transmit today also to you all: “Place your trust in him and you will never be disappointed! […] With God, peace, consolation, gentleness, courage, serenity and joy, which are all fruits of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22), find a home in our heart; then our very being is transformed”.

This new and beautiful condition of life that we experience when we fully open our hearts to the light of faith and live by it, putting all our trust in God, is exemplary incarnated by our Mother and model of Faith, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mary sought to understand more so that she could have the knowledge to properly consent. This attitude should guide us in our faith. We should seek to increase our understanding, while still believing as we do so.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his Apostolic Letter for the Indiction of the Year of Faith, Porta fidei, states: “By faith, Mary accepted the Angel’s word and believed the message that she was to become the Mother of God in the obedience of her devotion (cf. Lk 1:38). Visiting Elizabeth, she raised her hymn of praise to the Most High for the marvels he worked in those who trust him (cf. Lk 1:46-55). […] With the same faith, she followed the Lord in his preaching and remained with him all the way to Golgotha (cf. Jn 19:25-27). By faith, Mary tasted the fruits of Jesus’ resurrection, and treasuring every memory in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19, 51), she passed them on to the Twelve assembled with her in the Upper Room to receive the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:1-4)” (PF 13). In the Gospels it is reported that Mary did not say much, but she did a great deal – she lived up to her mission. This is what is expected from us: we must witness our faith through our deeds!

My dear Brothers and Sisters, this is what I earnestly wish you today, while we are preparing to bring to a close the Year of Faith: that, after having rediscovered the content of our faith, joyfully you make it your own and, as a consequence, you do your utmost to share it with others who are lukewarm in their faith or have not yet encountered the faith in Jesus Christ.

May you joyfully belong fully to God. May your lives show in practice who we are, and “whose” we are. May those who meet us have the joy of experiencing God’s central presence in our life.

I pray that the example of Mary lead you to carry on the evangelizing mission with ever renewed fervour and dedication. I also wish to convey the Apostolic Blessing of the Holy Father on you and your loved ones and assure you of my prayers.

May Mary, Queen of Peace, whom today we invoke especially for the dear and suffering population of Syria and Middle East, continue to cover you all with the mantle of her maternal love and protection. Holy Mother of God, pray for us! Queen of Peace, pray for us, guide us towards Jesus – ever anew! Amen.