Lourdes 2014 Farewell Mass

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Given at the Underground Basilica, Lourdes on Friday 25 July 2014 at the Diocesan Pilgrimage Farewell Mass.

It seems a long time ago, now, since I spoke to you about the three stories of Lourdes.

The first, you remember, is the story of all that happened here, the history of Lourdes. We have learned and seen a great deal of that.

The second is the story of our pilgrimage, the story we have written together in these last few days. 

And we have, without doubt, written a wonderful story of care and compassion, of generous self-giving, of attentiveness to each other, of the joy of serving and the graciousness of receiving. If you want to reflect on the fine spirit and quality of our pilgrimage, then read again the words of St Paul to the Colossians (3:12-19) that we have just heard. I believe our pilgrimage is a true reflection of all that St Paul has to say. His key words are love and peace. For me the key words that characterise our pilgrimage are also serenity and joy. 

Thank you all so much. 

The third story, as you will recall, is the inner story of our own personal experience, the story of our soul during these days, and of all that we have been given and understood, all the ways, small and not so small, in which we have changed. 

This is a moment to reflect on this deeply spiritual story, which is personal to each one of us, and different for each of us. Try, now, to see clearly the aspect of this story that you most want to grasp, to keep safe, to take hope with you. It is so special. 

Perhaps the story of Zaccheus can offer a few hints (Lk.19:1-10). 

Zaccheus was a rich man. He was the tax collector in Jericho, one of the richest trading cities of its day. And the taxman did very well, not least because he was an extortionist. But Zaccheus was not happy. He knew there was more. He wanted to see Jesus, and in meeting him he found a whole new treasure store. 

We too have come to meet Jesus. We too have made the journey. Now we need to grasp and see the new treasure we have been given. Perhaps a movement of our heart, or a new light of understanding ourselves and God's plan for us; perhaps a new realisation of our God-given gifts and how we find the very best within us. Whatever it may be, try to name and hold it now, in this moment, so that we can truly be thankful for the spiritual journey we are making.

Jesus said to Zaccheus, 'I want to stay at your house.' And he says the same to us. 'I want to come home with you!' This experience is not just for Lourdes. It is not to be a fleeting experience. Rather it is a gift for life, meant to become part of our daily life, the life of home and work, of relaxation and effort. So we welcome the spiritual steps we have taken and resolve, here and now, to build upon them, day by day.

Then, in the Gospel story, we heard that Zacheus changed his behaviour. That is a call to us, too, a call to be converted. The last line of the Gospel passage can help us to focus on what that change might be. Jesus said: 'The Son of Man has come to seek out and to save that which was lost.'

Now we can understand this not in the sense that he has come to save that which has been condemned, but also as meaning, literally, that which we have lost, mislaid, forgotten about. You know how easy it is to lose things: the car keys, the passport, the medical booklet. They somehow find their way into the wrong place. Well, that happens in our lives, too. Precious aspects of ourselves get lost over time. Maybe here in Lourdes we have found them again: our capacity for compassion, or for patient tolerance, or for generous giving. We may have recovered a sense of hope, or of lost love. Whatever it is, these are some of the precious gifts of self and of our spirit that this pilgrimage may have touched, for Jesus brought us here in order to bring us back to life! Remember them, cherish them, live them day by day!

Today we thank God for all the blessings of this pilgrimage. We offer this Mass, the supreme act of thanksgiving, for all that we have received. We ask the Lord to bless us as we go so that we may always be his loyal and generous servants.