Mass celebrated at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, for the annual Lourdes Day Mass on Saturday, 5 December

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

For over one hundred years Lourdes has been a magnificent place of pilgrimage. God chose his Blessed Mother to reveal to Saint Bernadette Soubirous the power of his mercy, forgiveness and healing.

Most compelling in the pilgrimage to Lourdes is the faith of the sick who are often borne in wheelchairs by volunteers, trusting in the mercy of God and the wonderful prayer of the community united to the powerful intercession of the Mother of her Son. Mary who at Cana said of Jesus: “Do whatever he tells you”, reaches out to the remarkable faith which brings us here today knowing that God can do all things for everyone.

He may grant healing, he may grant an ability to see one’s sufferings in union with the passion of Christ, he may grant a patience in what is not always easy to understand, but what is carrying us forward in life.

My prayer today is that we will understand the wonderful advances of care and also accompanying grace and mercy of God, which sustains us in our weakness.

On 8th December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we will begin a Jubilee of Mercy. This urges us to turn to Jesus Christ, the face of the Father’s mercy, and to remember throughout this coming year that God reaches to us as we are. Pope Francis said: “Mercy will always be greater than any sin and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive.”

On Tuesday, fifty years after the end of the Vatican Council, we remember the words of Saint John XXIII: “Now the bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity. The Catholic Church wants to show herself a loving mother to all; patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness towards her separated children.”

Pope Francis will open the Holy Door at Saint Peter’s Basilica, reminding us that God’s mercy endures forever and that we are the crowds who follow Jesus, tired and exhausted, and yet Jesus felt deep compassion for them. Pope Francis reminds us that on the basis of this compassionate love Jesus healed the sick, who were presented to him, and with just a few loaves of bread and fish he satisfied the enormous crowd.

Here in the Eucharist we come to the fountain of mercy. We come as we are, knowing and trusting the grace that only God can give, reaching out to the possibility of what God can show. With the mercy of Jesus, the light that darkness can never overpower and the prayers of Our Lady we can go forward with confidence knowing that we have come to the throne of grace and found mercy when we have need of it.

+ Denis J. Hart,

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