Vatican Radio is reporting on the homily delivered by Pope Francis yesterday morning in St. Peter’s Basilica. Although his remarks focused on the ecclesial, political and social significance of Mary’s divine motherhood, he spoke in glowing terms about the role mothers play, not only in the lives of their own children, but in the world around them as well.
“Mothers are the strongest antidote to our individualistic and egotistic tendencies, to our lack of openness and our indifference,” the pope continued. “A society without mothers would not only be a cold society, but a society that has lost its heart, lost the ‘feel of home’. A society without mothers would be a merciless society, one that has room only for calculation and speculation. Because mothers, even at the worst times, are capable of testifying to tenderness, unconditional self-sacrifice and the strength of hope.”
The Holy Father went on to admit how much he has learned from mothers whose children are in prison, or lying in hospital beds, or in bondage to drugs. “Yet, come cold or heat, rain or draught, never stop fighting for what is best for them. Or those mothers who in refugee camps, or even the midst of war, unfailingly embrace and support their children’s sufferings. Mothers who literally give their lives so that none of their children will perish. Where there is a mother, there is unity, there is belonging, belonging as children.”
This sense of belonging is critical for the well-being of all mankind because it reminds us that “we are not interchangeable items of merchandise. “We are children, we are family, we are God’s People.”
“It is the sense of being orphaned that the soul experiences when it feels motherless and lacking the tenderness of God, when the sense of belonging to a family, a people, a land, to our God, grows dim. This sense of being orphaned lodges in a narcissistic heart capable of looking only to itself and its own interests. It grows when what we forget that life is a gift we have received – and owe to others – a gift we are called to share in this common home.”
It was precisely this kind of self-centered orphanhood that led Cain to ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9); an ttitude which seems to say, “he doesn’t belong to me; I do not recognize him.”
“This attitude of spiritual orphanhood is a cancer that silently eats away at and debases the soul. We become all the more debased, inasmuch as nobody belongs to us and we belong to no one. I debase the earth because it does not belong to me; I debase others because they do not belong to me; I debase God because I do not belong to him, and in the end we debase our very selves, since we forget who we are and the divine “family name” we bear. The loss of the ties that bind us, so typical of our fragmented and divided culture, increases this sense of orphanhood and, as a result, of great emptiness and loneliness. The lack of physical (and not virtual) contact is cauterizing our hearts (cf. Laudato Si’, 49) and making us lose the capacity for tenderness and wonder, for pity and compassion. Spiritual orphanhood makes us forget what it means to be children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, friends and believers. It makes us forget the importance of playing, of singing, of a smile, of rest, of gratitude.”
The Church’s celebration of the motherhood of Mary “makes us smile once more as we realize that we are a people, that we belong, that only within a community, within a family, can we as persons find the ‘climate,’ the ‘warmth’ that enables us to grow in humanity, and not merely as objects meant to ‘consume and be consumed’,” he said.
“Celebrating the Holy Mother of God reminds us that we have a Mother. We are not orphans. We have a Mother. Together let us all confess this truth. I invite you to acclaim it three times, standing [all stand], like the faithful of Ephesus: Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God.”
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