On Friday 31 March 2023, in Malta and Gozo there was the celebration of the devotional feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Such a feast draws many people from all over the two sister Islands to come and participate in the Mass as well as the procession with the statute of Our Lady.
This celebration powerfully reminds me of the homily Pope Francis pronounced during the Via Crucis he held on Friday night at Cinta Costera in Panama on 25 January 2019:
Let us look to Mary, woman of strength. From her let us learn how to stand beneath the cross with her same determination and courage, without evasions or illusions. She accompanied the suffering of her Son, your Son; she supported him by her gaze and protected him with her heart. She shared his suffering, yet was not overwhelmed by it. She was the woman of strength who uttered her “yes”, who supports and accompanies, protects and embraces. She is the great guardian of hope.
We too want to be a Church that supports and accompanies, that is able to say, “Here I am!” in the lives and amid the crosses of all those Christs who walk by our side.
From Mary we learn how to say “yes” to the patience and perseverance of the many mothers, fathers and grandparents who never cease to support and accompany their children and grandchildren in trouble.
From her we learn how to say “yes” to the stubborn endurance and creativity of those who, undaunted, are ready to start over again in situations where everything appears to be lost, in an effort to create spaces, homes and centres of care that can be an outstretched hand to all those in difficulty.
In Mary, we learn the strength to be able to say “yes” to those who have refused to remain silent in the face of a culture of mistreatment and abuse, disparagement and aggression, and who work to provide opportunities and to create an atmosphere of safety and protection.
In Mary, we learn how to welcome and take in all those abandoned, and forced to leave or lose their land, their roots, their families and their work.
Like Mary, we want to be a Church that fosters a culture that welcomes, protects, promotes and integrates; that does not stigmatize, much less indulge in a senseless and irresponsible condemnation of every immigrant as a threat to society.
From her we want to learn to stand beneath the cross, not with hearts tightly shut, but with hearts that can accompany, that feel tenderness and devotion, that show mercy and treat others with respect, sensitivity and understanding. We want to be a Church of memory, which appreciates and respects the elderly and gives them their rightful place.
Like Mary we want to learn what it means to “stand”.
By her total following of the Christ, Mary teaches us strength, determination, courage, accompaniment, support, protection and embracement of the situation, whatever its complexity and hardness. May we, as baptized, learn from her how to support, accompany, have patient with, persevere and be open to help one another in the perils of life. Let us keep saying that saving YES to God to be there for each other in the hour of the test. When we welcome and integrate others we become God’s living icon of mercy towards those who most need our help. Let us let Mary teach us of what existentially means to “stand” in our day-to-day life situations.
With Pope Francis let us pray and make our own the following prayer which he prayed as a conclusion of his homily:
Lord, teach us to stand, at the foot of the cross, at the foot of every cross. Open our eyes and hearts this night, and rescue us from paralysis and uncertainty, from fear and desperation. Teach us to say: Here I stand, alongside your Son, alongside Mary and all those beloved disciples who desire to welcome your Kingdom into their heart.
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap