Archbishop of Westminster

Lourdes International Mass 2017

Given at the International Mass in the Basilica of St Pius X in Lourdes on Wednesday 26th July 2017 

This year in Lourdes, we ponder on the words ‘The Lord has done great things for me!’, words of Mary found in the Gospel of St Luke as we have just heard. 

The ‘great things’ that the Lord has done in the life of Mary, what are they? This Gospel passage gives us the answer. In it, we heard of Mary travelling, in great haste, across the Judean hills to visit Elizabeth who also was with child. Please imagine this scene. Mary travelling across the barren and dry hills, carrying within her the Eternal Word of God, the very light of the world. What a wonderful image: the source of our salvation, within the womb of the Virgin Mary, moving across the thirsty landscape of our lives, hidden from sight yet already shedding his light and grace. 

This hidden presence of Jesus, like a light glowing within Mary, evokes the startling response from John, the yet-to-be-born child in the womb of Elizabeth. He leapt in joy in recognition at the One who had arrived. How important it is for us to remember that this first dialogue of faith with Christ takes place between two unborn babies. This surely is such a powerful testimony to the dignity of life in the womb, which should always be protected and not killed. 

The joy of John, the joy of Mary, our joy at the coming of our Saviour, resonates so deeply within us because, as we heard in the First Reading, it is the fulfilling of an ancient promise: ‘Lo, I will come and dwell in your midst!’ Now, in Mary, this promise is wonderfully fulfilled. He comes and we leap for joy! He is in our midst and will never leave us! Our lives are transformed, redeemed! This is indeed the ‘great thing’ that the Lord has done in Our Blessed Lady. 

We come to Lourdes to celebrate our Blessed Mother, to be with her, to thank her. And here, in Lourdes, we must learn her lesson. It is the same lesson that is taught to us by St Bernadette. The Lord can truly come into our inner-most being if, like Mary and Bernadette, there is a true lowliness in our hearts. Mary has told us so: ‘He has looked on the lowliness of his servant!’ Only then can he enter and take possession of her and so come into our world. 

This is the lowliness of heart that we must learn. There is no better place to learn it than here in Lourdes. This lowliness is not negative. It is not about pretending that we are no good. It is a joyful simplicity, a happy recognition that all we have comes as a gift of God and that, in Jesus, we have the one who shows us how those gifts are to be used, even the experiences of weakness and dependence on others. 

In our lowliness we too become bearers of the light of Christ in the pathways of our world: our high streets and tower blocks, our supermarkets and corner shop, our homes and our hospitals. We do not have to shout or protest: just continue steadily about our business, aglow with the light of Christ who fills us with his joy and love, even as he filled Mary on her journey along the pathways of her time. 

Indeed, the Lord has done great things for us! Holy is his name. 

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

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