Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today with joy we come, united with our brothers and sisters
who are sick, to touch the hope that our God offers us as we prepare to welcome
him at Christmas. The integrity and
faithfulness foretold by Isaiah, the justice and fullness of peace for which we
pray in the Psalm and the invitation of John the Baptist to ‘prepare the way of
the Lord’, that all people may see the salvation of God, ring in our ears, as
we enter this special moment of pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage is entitled, Lourdes Day, because of the
blessing with holy water from Lourdes, which will occur at the end of
Mass. Pope John Paul, himself ailing and
a pilgrim, went to Lourdes some years ago and his words are great comfort to us
as we celebrate this Mass.
We ask Mary, who carried the Saviour in her womb with love
beyond all telling, to help us to ponder God’s love in our lives; through the
Cross, through the hope it gives and through the call to resurrection. Truly with the Pope we can say, “We wish to
learn from the lowly handmaid of the Lord an attitude of docility and openness
to the Word of God and a generous commitment to welcome Christ’s teaching into
our lives.” (Lourdes, 14th August,
From the time when Bernadette first received the Holy Mother
in the grotto at Massabielle she began a dialogue between heaven and earth,
which lasted through time and continues to this day - a procession, which asks
that the Blessed Mother journey at our side along the pilgrim way of faith,
hope and love.
In this Year of the Eucharist we remember that at Lourdes
for more than a century Christian people have faithfully walked each day behind
Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and each night amid songs and prayers in honour
of the Lord’s Mother.
Like John the Baptist, who proclaimed the need to come to
the Lord, we pray together with Bernadette, “Good Mother have mercy on me; I
give myself entirely to you, that you may give me to your dear Son, whom I wish
to love with my whole heart. Good Mother
grant me a heart all aflame for Jesus.”
Similarly, in whatever way we participate in the oneness
with Christ offered by his Church, whether as a teacher, a worker, someone
specially called, or those who are called to prayer and suffering and thereby
witness to him, we might well remember in the words of the Holy Father at
Lourdes, “Christianity is truly a fountain of life, and Mary is the first
guardian of this fountain. She points it
out to all people, inviting them to renounce their pride and to learn humility,
so that they can draw from the mercy of her Son and thus work together for the
dawn of the civilisation of love.” (John
Paul II, Angelus Message, 15th August, 2004.)
In the Advent hope of the Saviour, challenged by John the
Baptist, nurtured by Mary, we now go forward to profess our faith and honour
our God, active and present in our lives.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.