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Given at the Mass in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of All Creation at the Cité St Pierre, Lourdes on 24th July 2023

Sing it in the valleys, shout it from the mountain tops; Jesus came to save us and his saving never stops. These words we sang in the opening hymn of the Mass.

It is a great joy to be here in the Cité St Pierre, under the canopy of God’s protection, under the shade of the trees. As the prophet Baruch wrote in a much-loved image of mine: ‘The woods and every fragrant tree have shaded Israel at God’s command’. And for us, the woods and every fragrant tree shade us, God’s holy people of Westminster, at God’s command. 

Today is a moment when we pause and thank God for the gift of the beauty of God’s creation, for the gift of our lives, and for the gift of our faith in Jesus who saves us. As Jesus is at our side, we also thank his Mother, Our Blessed Lady, Mary the Mother of God, who is the Queen of All Creation. She is our model and shows us the way to heaven. 

We have just heard the gospel of the Annunciation. We can imagine the moment, the pause, the silence, the motion of the air after the Angel Gabriel has invited Mary to be the Mother of God’s Son. Gabriel has spoken the invitation to rejoice, the greeting of God’s promise to Our Lady, the greeting for which the Jewish people waited, a people who walked in darkness, longed. In the moment of silence as the angel’s wings quiver, Mary responds, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’

God’s promises the Holy Spirit will bring about this mystery and she will conceive.  In the generosity of her heart, Mary answers, ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me.’ Fiat, let this be done to me; a surrender and an act of trust in the promise of God. The prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, ‘For there is a child born for us, a son given to us... he is named, “Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father; Prince of Peace.”’ A light has shone in the darkness and now: all things will be made new in Christ.

Mary is the Mother who says ‘Yes’ and brings this about like any mother; she is the Queen of All Creation which is made new in Christ. In this new creation, there will be a new heaven and a new earth, the lamb will lie down with the wolf, the lion with the cub, peace will reign, suffering will be turned to joy, grief to consolation, death to eternal life. All things will reach their fulfilment and give glory to God in joy and praise. 

The call of the Our Lady, the beautiful lady, as St Bernadette described her at the Grotto, is an invitation to Bernadette to do her will like Our Blessed Lady did the will of God. St Bernadette accepts this invitation but is told ‘I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the other.’ She will always remember the smile of the Lady who invited her to trust in her, to have faith in God, and become new in Christ. This helps her through the difficult days. She did not know on that morning where God would lead her but only that she could trust in him and live under the protection of God’s canopy of love. She would become new in Christ through prayer, sacrifice, suffering and death leading to eternal life.

All of creation groans to be renewed in Christ. The creation gives glory in its growth to God who sustains it. Each one of us is called by God to become new in Christ by following God’s calling in our lives, his vocation to each of us; whether in family life, in healthcare and service, in education, in priesthood and diaconate, in consecrated life. Each day is a journey of discovery trying to respond more deeply to do God’s will and trust in his promise. How is God calling you today? We listen for the whisper of the Holy Spirit who speaks into our hearts.   

Bishop John Sherrington