Bookmark and Share

Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, 2019

LII World Day of Peace
Theme: Good politics is at the service of peace

Pope Francis's homily at 1st Vespers & ‘Te Deum’ in thanksgiving for the past year
St Peter's Basilica , Monday 31 December 2018 - also in French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"At the end of another year, the word of God accompanies us with two verses from the Apostle Paul (cf Gal 4, 4-5). They are concise yet full of meaning: a synthesis of the New Testament that sheds light on a “critical” moment like this, the passage from one year to the next.

The first words that strike us are “the fullness of time”. This expresses a particular nuance in the final hours of this calendar year, in which we still feel the need of something meaningful to fill the passage of time. Something, or better, someone. That “someone” has come. God sent him, “his Son”, Jesus, whose birth we have just celebrated. He was born of a woman, the Virgin Mary; born under the law, a Jewish child, subject to the Lord’s law. Yet how is this possible? How can this be the sign that the fullness of time has come? At his birth, the Child is for all purposes invisible and insignificant, yet in a little more than thirty years, he will release an unprecedented power, one that remains today and will endure for all time. That power is called Love. It is love that gives fullness to everything, even to time. Jesus is the “quintessence” of all God’s love in a human being.

Saint Paul clearly tells us why the Son of God was born in time, as well as the mission that the Father gave him: he was born “to redeem”. This is the second word that strikes us: to redeem, to ransom, is to emancipate from slavery and to restore to liberty: to the dignity and freedom proper to sons and daughters. The slavery to which the Apostle refers is that of the “Law”, understood as a series of commands to be obeyed, a Law that, while indeed pedagogical and instructive, does not free us from our state of sin. Indeed, it “nails” us to that state, preventing us from attaining the freedom of children.

God the Father sent his only begotten Son into the world in order to eradicate from the heart of man the ancient slavery of sin and thus restore his dignity. From the human heart - as Jesus teaches in the the Gospel (cf Mk 7, 21-23) - come all evil intentions, the iniquities that corrupt life and relationships.

And here we must pause to reflect with sadness and remorse because, also during this year which is coming to a close, so many men and women have experienced and are experiencing conditions of slavery, unworthy of human persons.

Here too in our city of Rome there are brothers and sisters who, for various reasons, find themselves in this situation. I am thinking, in particular, of so many people who are homeless. There are over ten thousand of them. In the winter months, their situation is particularly difficult. All of them are sons and daughters of God, but various forms of slavery, sometimes quite complex, have forced them to live at the limits of human dignity. Jesus was also born in a similar situation, but not by chance or by an accident: He desired to be born this way, so as to manifest the love of God for the little ones and the poor, and thus to sow in the world the seed of the Kingdom of God, Kingdom of justice, of love and peace, where no one is a slave, but all are brothers and sisters, children of the one Father.

The Church which is in Rome does not want to be indifferent to the slaveries of our time, nor simply observe them and offer assistance, but wants to be inside this reality, close to these people and to these situations. Close, maternal.

I like to encourage this form of the Church's motherhood as we celebrate the divine motherhood of the Virgin Mary. In contemplating this mystery, we recognize that God was “born of woman” so that we could receive the fullness of our humanity, “the adoption as children”. By his abasement we have been raised up. From his littleness has come our greatness. From his fragility, our strength. From making himself a servant, our freedom.

What name shall we give this, if not Love? The love of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, to whom this evening
holy mother Church in all the world raises her hymn of praise and thanksgiving."

Papa Francisco's homily at Mass on Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
St Peter's Basilica , Tuesday 1 January 2019 - also in Arabic, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"“All who heard were amazed at what the shepherds told them” (Lk 2, 18). To be amazed: this is what is asked of us today, at the conclusion of the Octave of Christmas, as we continue to contemplate the Child born for us, lacking everything yet abounding in love. Amazement is what we should feel at the beginning of each year, for life is a gift that constantly gives us a chance to make a new start, even from the most lowly of conditions.

But today is also a day to be amazed by the Mother of God. God appears as a little child, held in the arms of a woman who feeds her Creator. The statue before our eyes depicts the Mother and Child so close as to appear as one. That is the mystery we celebrate today, which gives rise to boundless amazement: God has become one with humanity forever. God and man, always together, that is the good news of this new year. God is no distant lord, dwelling in splendid isolation above the heavens, but love incarnate, born like us of a mother, in order to be a brother to each of us, to be close to us: the God of closeness. He rests on the lap of his mother, who is also our mother, and from there He pours out upon humanity a new tenderness. Thus we come to understand more fully God’s love, which is both paternal and maternal, like that of a mother who never stops believing in her children and never abandons them. God-with-us, Emmanuel, loves us despite our mistakes, our sins, and the way we treat our world. God believes in humanity, where stands out, first and unparalleled, his Mother.

At the beginning of the year, let us implore from Mary the grace to be amazed at the God of surprises. Let us renew the amazement we felt when faith was first born in us. The Mother of God helps us: the Mother who gave birth to the Lord, now presents us, reborn, to the Lord. She is a mother who generates in her children the amazement of faith, because faith is an encounter, not a religion. Without amazement, life becomes dull and routine, and so it is with faith. The Church too needs to renew her amazement at being the dwelling place of the living God, the Bride of the Lord, a Mother who gives birth to her children. Otherwise, she risks turning into a beautiful museum of the past. A “Church museum”. Our Lady instead gives the Church the feel of a home, a home in which the God of newness dwells. Let us receive with amazement the mystery of the Mother of God, as the inhabitants of Ephesus did at the time of the Council. Like them, let us acclaim her “Holy Mother of God”. From her, let us allow ourselves to be gazed upon, to be embraced, to be taken by the hand.

Let us allow ourselves to be gazed upon. Especially in times of need, when we are entangled in life’s knots, we rightly lift our eyes to Our Lady, to Our Mother. Yet first, we should let ourselves be gazed upon by Our Lady. When she gazes upon us, she does not see sinners but children. It is said that the eyes are the mirror of the soul; the eyes of Mary, full of grace, reflect the beauty of God, they show us a reflection of heaven. Jesus himself said that the eye is “the lamp of the body” (Mt 6, 22): the eyes of Our Lady are able to bring light to every dark corner; everywhere they rekindle hope. As she gazes upon us, she says: “Dear children, courage; here I am, your Mother!”

This maternal gaze, which instils confidence and trust, helps us to grow in faith. Faith is a bond with God that engages the whole person; to be preserved, it needs the Mother of God. Her maternal gaze helps us see ourselves as beloved children in God’s faithful people, and to love one another regardless of our individual limitations and approaches. Our Lady keeps us rooted in the Church, where unity counts more than diversity; she encourages us to care for one another. Mary’s gaze reminds us that faith demands a tenderness that can save us from becoming lukewarm. Tenderness: the Church of tenderness. Tenderness is a word that today many want to remove from the dictionary. When in faith there is room for the Mother of God, we never lose sight of the centre: the Lord, because Mary never points to herself, but to Jesus; and our brothers and sisters, because Mary is mother.

The gaze of the Mother, the gaze of mothers. A world that looks to the future without a maternal gaze is shortsighted. It may well increase its profits, but it will no longer see in men children. It will make money, but not for everyone. We will all dwell in the same house, but not as brothers and sisters. The human family is founded on mothers. A world in which maternal tenderness is relegated to mere sentiment can be rich materially, but poor where the future is concerned. Mother of God, teach us your gaze upon life and turn your gaze upon us, upon our miseries. Turn to us your merciful eyes.

Let us allow ourselves to be embraced. From Mary’s gaze, we now turn to her heart, in which, as today’s Gospel recounts, she “treasured all these things and pondered them” (Lk 2, 19). Our Lady, in other words, took everything to heart; she embraced everything, events both good and bad. And she pondered all these things; she brought them before God. This was her secret. In the same way, she now takes to heart the life of each of us: she wants to embrace our every situation and to present it to God.

In today’s fragmented world, where we risk losing our bearings, a Mother’s embrace is essential. How much dispersion and solitude there is all around us! The world is completely connected, yet seems increasingly disjointed. We need to entrust ourselves to our Mother. In the Scriptures, Our Lady embraces any number of concrete situations; she is present wherever she is needed. She visits her cousin Elizabeth; she comes to the aid of the newlyweds in Cana; she encourages the disciples in the Upper Room… Mary is a cure for solitude and dispersion. She is the Mother of con-solation: she stands “with” those who are “alone”. She knows that words are not enough to console; presence is needed, and she is present as a mother. Let us allow her to embrace our lives. In the Salve Regina, we call her “our life”. This may seem exaggerated, for Christ himself is “life” (cf Jn 14, 6), yet Mary is so closely united to him, and so close to us, that we can do no better than to put our hands in hers and to acknowledge her as “our life, our sweetness and our hope.”

And then, in the journey of life, let us allow ourselves to be taken by the hand. Mothers take their children by the hand and lovingly introduce them to life. But how many children today wander off on their own and lose their way. Thinking they are strong, they get lost; thinking they are free, they become slaves. How many, forgetting a mother’s affection, live in anger with themselves and indifference to everything! How many, sad to say, react to everything and everyone with bitterness and malice! Life is such. Showing oneself “malicious” even seems at times to be a sign of strength. Yet it is nothing more than weakness. We need to learn from mothers that heroism is shown in self-giving, strength in compassion, wisdom in meekness.

God himself did not do without a Mother: all the more reason do we need her! Jesus himself gave her to us, from the cross: “Behold your mother!” (Jn 19, 27). He said this to the beloved disciple and to every disciple. Our Lady is not an optional accessory: she has to be welcomed into our life. She is the Queen of peace, who triumphs over evil and leads us along paths of goodness, who restores unity to her children, who teaches us compassion.

Mary, take us by the hand. Clinging to you, we will pass safely through the straits of history. Lead us by the hand to rediscover the bonds that unite us. Gather us beneath your mantle, in the tenderness of true love, where the human family is reborn: “We fly to thy protection, O Holy Mother of God”. Let us together pray these words to Our Lady: “We fly to thy protection, O Holy Mother of God”."