Vatican City, 13 December 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday, on the liturgical solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, patroness of Latin America, the Holy Father celebrated Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. The celebration was preceded by the Holy Rosary and hundreds of people, mostly from the American continent, where the devotion to Our Lady extends from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. In the homily he pronounced, the Pope emphasised Mary's mercy, asking that we might understand how much God loves us through her.
Francis began by citing the phrases of the prophet Zephaniah in the first reading: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one Who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing. “These words, addressed to Israel, can also be referred to the Virgin Mary, the Church, and every person, all of whom are loved by God’s merciful love. Yes, God loves us so much that he even rejoices and takes pleasure in us. He loves us with gratuitous love, love without limits, and without expecting anything in return. This merciful love is the most striking attribute of God, the synthesis of which is condensed the Gospel message, the faith of the Church”.
He went on to explain that the word “mercy” – “misericordia” - is composed of two words: misery and heart. The heart indicates the capacity to love; mercy is that love, which embraces the misery of the person. It is a love that “feels” our poverty as if it were its own, so as to free us of it. … . “The Word became flesh,” with the intention of sharing all our frailties – with the intention of experiencing our human condition, even unto taking upon himself the Cross, with all the pain of human existence. Such is the abyss of compassion and mercy. … No sin can cancel his merciful closeness or prevent him from unleashing the grace of conversion, provided we invoke it. Indeed, sin itself makes more radiant the love of God who, to ransom a slave, sacrificed his Son. That mercy of God comes to us with the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism. ... For, however great and grave the sins of the world, the Spirit, who renews the face of the earth, makes possible the miracle of a life that is more human, more full of joy and hope”.
“'The Lord is near', says the apostle Paul, and nothing should make us anguished. He and His Mother are near. The greatest mercy lies in his being in our midst, in our being in his presence and company. He walks with us, he shows us the path of love, lifts us up when we fall, sustains us in our labours, accompanies us in all circumstances of our existence. He opens our eyes to our own misery and that of the world, but also fills us with hope. … This is the source of a peaceful and happy life; nothing can rob us of this peace and joy, despite the sufferings and trials of life. The Lord with His tenderness opens up His heart to us, He opens up His love. The Lord is allergic to rigidities. … Announcing the Good News to the poor, like John the Baptist, performing works of mercy, is a good way to look for the coming of Jesus at Christmas”.
“In one of the prayers most cherished by Christians, the Salve Regina, we call Mary 'mother of mercy'”, continued the Holy Father. “She who always lived intimately united with her Son, knows better than anyone what He wants: that all men be saved, and that God’s tenderness and consolation exclude no-one. … To Blessed Mary we entrust the sufferings and joys of people throughout the Americas, who love her as a mother and recognise her as Patroness under the beloved title of Our Lady of Guadalupe”.
“May the sweetness of her gaze be with us in this Holy Year, so that we might rediscover the joy of God's tenderness”, concluded the Pope. “We ask that this jubilee year sow merciful love in the hearts of individuals, families and nations. Let us convert and become merciful people, and let all Christian communities be oases and sources of mercy, witnesses to a charity without exclusion. To ask this in a special way, I will travel to venerate her in her Shrine on 13 February. I will ask for this for all America, for whom she is a special Mother. Let us implore her to guide the footsteps of the American people, a pilgrim people looking for the Mother of mercy, and let us ask her just one thing: to show them her Son Jesus”.
After his homily and during the prayer of the faithful, the Pope prayed for his parents Mario and Regina, “who gave me life and transmitted faith to me”, he said, and who were married eighty years ago.
Like last year, all those present concluded by singing “La Guadalupana”, the hymn to Our Lady of Guadalupe, known throughout the world.