Homily, Monday Mass, 9 September 2013, Shrine of Our Lady of Velankanni,

Homily, Monday Mass, 9 September 2013, Shrine of Our Lady of Velankanni, (fishermen village, on the beach) 5.30 pm

Readings: Colossians 1:24-2:3; Luke 6:6-11.

Your Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I am particularly happy to be among you today, in this beautiful Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Velankanni, which is so close to the beach and to the village, that is – as I have been told – a ‘fishermen village’. All that, reminds me about the beginning of the public life and of the preaching of Jesus, which happened, for the most part, “by the shore” of the lake of Gennesareth, and, especially on the Sabbaths, in the synagogues of fishermen villages. One of those was the synagogue of Capernaum, where the episode we have just heard about in the Gospel reading is also located.

That day, in the synagogue of the ‘fishing village’ of Capernaum, Jesus was not understood and was rejected, not because he was performing good deeds, healings, but because he was doing that in the “day of Sabbath”, when, according to the ancient law, it was forbidden to do any labour. Because of the rigid observance of that law, forgetting the primary rule of love and compassion, the heart of those fishermen and other villagers – especially those belonging to the sect of Pharisees – was not open to the light of faith, and hence was unable to welcome the newness of Jesus and of his healing presence.

On the contrary, today in this Shrine by the shore of the Ocean, in your “fishing village”, I am sure that your hearts, and the hearts of many others, are widely open to receive the Gospel, the good news of salvation, and the healing presence of Jesus, especially through the divine gift of His Word and of His Body in the Eucharist.

In a special way, we would like to welcome Jesus and receive His healing message following the luminous example of Mary, the Mother of God, the “first disciple of her Son” and our Mother of Faith, whom you honour in this Shrine under the title of Our Lady of Velankanni, Patroness of India.

Mary, in fact, “leads us always to Jesus”. Let us invoke her help and assistance so that, through her example of life on earth and her intercession in Heaven, she may lead us to her Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer.

With her ‘yes’, freely pronounced at the announcement of the Angel Gabriel that she would become the Mother of the Lord, Our Lady opened for us all the door of salvation, so that her Son, the Messiah, may come to the world to show the Father’s love for all humanity.

O, Mary, lead us to Jesus! As you said “here I am”, may we also respond to the will of God with the same faith and joy. Almost at the end of this Year of Faith, we promise, O Mary, to revive our faith and deepen our knowledge of the Catholic doctrine, in order to be faithful and courageous witnesses of the Lord, in spirit of humility and obedience, as you, o Mary, taught us!

A second leading thread of Mary’s life was certainly her listening attitude. Our Holy Father Francis, meditating on this aspect of Mary’s personality, tells us: “Mary knew how to listen to God. Be careful: it was not merely “hearing”, a superficial word, but it was “listening”, that consists of attention, acceptance and availability to God. It was not in the distracted way with which we sometimes face the Lord or others: we hear their words, but we do not really listen. Mary is attentive to God. She listens to God” (Meditation for the Conclusion of the Marian Month of May 2013).

Pope Francis goes even deeper in his analysis of this essential attitude of Our Lady, adding: “However Mary also listens to the events, that is, she interprets the events of her life; she is attentive to reality itself and does not stop on the surface but goes to the depths to grasp its meaning”.

Dear friends, this is also true in our own life: listening to God who speaks to us, and listening also to daily reality, paying attention to people, to events, because the Lord is at the door of our life and knocks in many ways, he puts signs on our path; he gives us the ability to see them. Mary is the mother of listening, of attentive listening to God and of equally attentive listening to the events of life.

O, Mary, the listening Virgin, who lived immersed in the Word of God and in the concreteness of life, you treasured in your heart the words that come from God, lead us to discover Jesus in our daily life and in the concrete circumstances of our existence!

Finally, a third dimension of Mary’s attitude on which I like to briefly focus today is her capacity of action. As soon as she knew from the Angel about the pregnancy of her cousin Elizabeth, Mary set out on a journey to visit her and “went with haste” (cf. Lk 1:39). Mary’s action was a consequence of her obedience to the Angel’s words but was combined with charity: she went to Elizabeth to make herself useful, out of love.

Dear brothers and sisters, allow me to conclude my reflection by praying with you the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Velankanni and Queen of Peace: O Mary, Mother of Faith lead us to Jesus with your spirit of faith, woman of listening, open our ears; grant us to know how to listen to the word of your Son Jesus among the thousands of words of this world; woman of decision, illuminate our mind and our heart, so that we may obey, unhesitating, the word of your Son Jesus. Mary, woman of action, obtain that our hands and feet move “with haste” toward others, to bring them the charity and love of your Son Jesus, to bring the light of the Gospel to the world, as you did. Amen.