DIOCESE OF LANCASTER LOURDES PILGRIMAGE

 

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''DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU''

 

In Lourdes

 

The events in Lourdes took place 160 years ago this year. But, like the Gospel, which itself is less than 2000 years old, they are as relevant today as ever. They beckon us on to a place we have not yet reached. We need to open our hearts to the Good News, to become the contemporaries of the Gospel today. God approaches ever closer, the Kingdom of Heaven is in our midst.

 

2018 will be perhaps an opportunity for us to return to the roots of these events, to Mary and to Bernadette. The hubbub we experience in our own hectic lives, in our anxieties and in our concerns, blocks out the words of eternal love that passed in the silent encounter between these two young women. It will be good for us to rediscover Bernadette, the first witness of Lourdes, in whom we recognise the face of Mary and the Paschal candle illuminated with the light of the Holy Spirit. After the focus, in 2017, on the Virgin of the Magnificat, we return this year to the young Bernadette. “Have you seen this child?” Mgr. Laurence asked members of the Commission during the investigation into the authenticity of the events at Lourdes. Look at Bernadette and listen to her, welcome the light that shines from the dark recess of the rock, and embrace the silence that enables us to hear the Word of God.

 

With Bernadette, let us be attentive to the Virgin of Silence, who brings us theWord from a God of Love, our Creator and Saviour. The ‘message’ of Lourdes is none other than the Good News, announced to the poor and entrusted to them.

 

 

In the Church

 

2018 is a significant date for Lourdes and for the Church as a whole. In October, the Synod of Bishops will convene on the theme - Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment. We are all on the path with the young people towards World Youth Day 2019 in Panama. Pope Francis has outlined a Marian path in preparation for the next World Youth Day:

 

  • In 2017, in recalling the blessings of the past by welcoming in faith the graces received from

the Father. The Mighty One has done great things for me.

  • In 2018, in having courage for the present by engaging daily in the service of charity. Do not

be afraid, for you have found favour with God.

  • In 2019, in trusting in the future with hope. I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to

me according to your Word.

 

With the Virgin Mary, the Church directs our attention and our prayers towards the world of young people. In Lourdes, Mary, “as young and as small as myself”, as Bernadette said, did not proclaim from on high, but appeared from the depths of the earth. She became Bernadette’s catechist, and it was for this reason that Bernadette returned to Lourdes from Bartrès in January 1858. Mary’s method

 

  • Firstly, in accompaniment, by setting out on the path together. “Listen to what is coming from your hearts”, remarked His Holiness at Krakow during World Youth Day in July 2016. “What are you seeking?” Jesus asks the two disciples who follow him on the banks of the river Jordan. Bernadette is asked, “Would you do me the favour of coming here?". A path of mutual respect and confidence opens up for Bernadette, the promise of a friendship far beyond the superficial pleasures of this world. You must first acknowledge and accept your poverty. “They have no more wine,” says Mary during the wedding feast at Cana. Accept your poverty but do not abandon hope. Mary’s request was to Jesus. You too must enter into this inner Grotto where someone awaits you. Your poverty and your failings may become, like the Grotto of Massabielle, the place of a presence. Listen!

 

At Cana, Mary is attentive to the needs of men; she is in reality listening to God’s plan, who wishes to be reunited, through Jesus, with a humanity in decline. Mary knows that, without God, this world lacks foundation or meaning. She knows that this world is the fruit of love and that it needs to live in love to survive. Mary knows that this world, through mankind, must draw its life from the Covenant with its Creator; Mary is listening, she is always available. She is able to say, “May it be done to me according to your word”, and to say to the servants at the wedding feast: Do whatever He tells you!

 

  • Secondly, in committing ourselves with all that we have and all that we are without fear of ridicule. Mary said to the servants at the wedding feast, “Do whatever He tells you”. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill these jars with water”. Mary gives us the courage to obey the Word which echoes deep within us. Mary enables us to see that it is the Word of Eternal Life. To whom shall we go? Bernadette at the Grotto crawls through the mud and digs until a spring flows “for sinners". A path of grace opens to her Be willing to serve.

 

Jesus can respond to Mary’s request because she has opened herself fully to His path of trust. She is the first disciple of Jesus. As the Son trusts in the Father from whom He receives everything, Mary trusts in Jesus who has come to fulfil the will of the Father; He becomes his brothers’ servant. “I have set you an example, that you should do as I have done for you (Jn 13:15).

 

  • And thirdly, in sharing what you have received: it is the only way to sustain it. “Draw some out now and take it to the head waiter”. By doing so, you will enable the guests to taste the wine and the joy of the wedding feast. They are now absorbed into the light of the Covenant, into the light of Life. The wedding feast is a symbol, it is the concrete expression of the union between God and His people, embodied in Jesus, true Man and Son of God. Mary enables us to give praise for the creation which embraces the love of its God. “Praise to you, my Lord! ... You offer me now the wine of the wedding feast, You open my heart to joy!”

 

On 25th March, at the Grotto, Mary finally reveals her name, “I am the Immaculate Conception”. I am the one who offers no resistance to the will of God. I have allowed his Word to penetrate me and become flesh in me. “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your Word.” Bernadette, in turn,becomes Mary’s representative, the torch bearer. She is sent to the priests to tell them to build a Chapel, a place where the bread of the Word and the bread of Life will be offered. You are also invited to respond, ‘Here I am, send me!’

 

The Pope speaks to the young in light of the upcoming Synod: I am reminded of the words which God spoke to Abraham, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s house to the land I will show you”(Gn 12:1). These same words are also addressed to you today. These are the words of a Father who is inviting you to ‘go’, to set out towards a future which is unknown , but one which will surely lead to fulfilment, a future , towards which He himself will accompany you. I invite you to listen to the voice of God resounding in your hearts through the breath of the Holy Spirit.

 

At Krakow, during the opening ceremony of the last World Youth Day, I repeatedly asked you: “Can we make a difference?” and all of you shouted, “yes!” That shout comes from your youthful hearts which do not tolerate injustice and which will never bend to a’throw-away’ culture, nor give in to the globalisation of indifference. Listen to this cry that rises from deep within you! Even when you feel, like the prophet Jeremiah, the inexperience of youth, God encourages you to go where He sends you: “Do not be afraid [...] for I am with you to deliver you” (Jr 1:8)

 

A better world is being created also thanks to your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity. Do not be afraid to listen to the Holy Spirit who suggests bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks to follow the Lord. This Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your reasoning, your faith, even your doubts and your criticisms. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in the communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls

 

I entrust you to Mary of Nazareth, a young person like yourselves whom God beheld lovingly so that she may take your hand and guide you to the joy of fully and generously responding to God’s call with the words, "Here I am!"

 

The Pope speaks to each of us, not only to the young and the children; he speaks to Catechists, Chaplains and teachers, to those responsible for passing on the Good News, to those who do not wish it to be just empty rhetoric, but the Word made flesh. Perhaps particular responsibility rests with those journalists who influence the content of social media platforms visited by the young; can they provide content that gives proper nourishment for the road of life?

 

Like Mary and Bernadette, are we not all, invited above all to be silent and to listen? Then the youngest, the poorest, the most frail, the Bernadettes of today will seem to us to be the privileged ones, those who are able to teach us what is important, those things invisible to the eye, but seen clearly with the heart.

 

 

On the path with my brothers

 

How do I answer the constant call of the Pope to move on, to go? He reiterates to us the call that God made to Abraham, the call God makes to His people in Egypt to flee from slavery and set out for a new land. Mary makes the same request of Bernadette, “Would you do me the favour of coming? What is God’s promise for me today? To what other world is He calling me?

 

There are many empty jars to fill, many layers of mud to scrape away, many hearts of stone to convert into hearts of flesh. What choices are available to me? What path should I follow in my life and working environment, my Church, and the world in which I live?

 

What is the Word that I need to get across, what mission is assigned to me, to ‘the Priests’, to those in charge, to those who are responsible today for guiding their brothers and their fellow citizens? How can I help to proclaim the Gospel and to build the ‘chapel’, the Church? What is my place among the poor, the young , those who suffer, the Bernadette’s of today, who are entrusted with the Good News of Jesus?