Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes

HOMILY or Archbishop Michael FOR LOURDES PILGRIMAGE 2014  Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes.web  I welcome you all as we come here on Pilgrimage to Our Lady’s Shrine at Lourdes. Whether this is your first time on Pilgrimage or whether you have been here many times before, you carry with you in your heart so many cares, concerns and anxieties. Perhaps you come in thanksgiving for a favour that you have received, a recovery or the resolution of a difficult situation. On the other hand you may come wondering and worried about the family situation, a relationship that seems to be going through difficult times. Concerned about employment, economic liability or examinations. These and so many other countless issues are carried by each one of us to our pilgrimage to Lourdes.   Pilgrimage has a long tradition in our Christian and Jewish faith. As individuals and families we share the faith of those who have gone before us and we have inherited it from them. We acknowledge that pilgrimage can help us to deepen our faith, enable us to put things into perspective and help us to become focused on God and His mother. Living as we do in an age of hectic mobility, when so many demands are made on our time, whether we are parents, grandparents, whether we live the single life, religious life or priesthood. A busy world tends to push God out to the verges of life and marginalise religious values and ideals. In this situation pilgrimage is more necessary today if we are to stand back from the busy merry-go-around of life and reflect on where we have come from, where we find ourselves at this point in time and the direction in which we are moving. As followers of Jesus Christ we must remind ourselves of our sense of duty and how we fulfil it.   While we are here at Mary’s Shrine at Lourdes I believe that it may be helpful to reflect on the way in which Mary and Joseph recognised their sense of duty when they made a pilgrimage as they presented Jesus in the Temple. It shows that Mary and Joseph shared the faith of their people. They followed their religious traditions with deep conviction. These traditions embodied and expressed God’s love for Israel. “You shall be my people and I will be your God”. Following these traditions and acting in accordance with them meant being faithful to God’s love.   You are familiar with the story of Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus in the Temple. God speaks to us through the people that we meet in daily life and I believe in a particular way on pilgrimage. While they were in the temple, the old man Simeon who was waiting for God’s promise to Israel to be fulfilled, was moved by the Spirit to recognise the presence of the Messiah in the new born Jesus. After praising God, he addressed these words to Mary: “this child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that would be contradicted so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34-35).   An old lady approached the family and Luke says she began to praise God and speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. The family left Jerusalem that day to return to Nazareth and on their way back there must have been a sense of bewilderment about the meaning of their meeting with Simeon and Anna.   We come here to Our Lady’s Shrine, we carry in our hearts so many people, family members, the sick, the bereaved, those who are anxious and worried, people for whom we have promised to pray. We are very conscious of belonging to a people of faith as we meet men, women and children of other nationalities and cultures. We get some appreciation of the extent of God’s family, their deep faith, their love and generosity. It is a source of great encouragement for us as we cope with the kind of hostility and negativity which is beamed in on the Church in our own country. We learn from the way in which they express their love for God and for the mother of God.   The pressures of secularism and modern living has frequently reduced the significance of religious observance in the lives of many Christians. Busy schedules, dual-career marriages, and after school activities mean that families spend less time together, particularly at meals. Prayer before and after meals and morning and night prayers are now observed in fewer homes today than in the past. Births, weddings and funerals have taken on a social rather than a religious dimension. The marking of both daily and special events with religious rituals help to recognise the sacredness of life and the presence of God in the everyday events. As a result God has receded from the awareness and the experience of many in everyday life.   I believe that reflection and the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Mary and Joseph can serve to challenge modern believers to recover the mystery of life and the way in which every-day experiences benefit from religious celebrations. It is a challenge for us in our culture today to find effective religious occasions for celebrating the presence of God in the ordinary. We need to learn to greet the morning with gratitude; to celebrate the goodness of food, family, friendship at meals; to recognise mystery and beauty   The visit of Mary and Joseph with the child Jesus to the Temple was an expression of their deep awareness and dedication to God. They saw God at work in the events that they had experienced. As members of the community they were deeply conscious of their faith tradition and introduced the child Jesus into that community of faith. On that occasion Simeon and Anna made them sensitive to God’s presence and they responded to Mary and Joseph by speaking words of blessing. The blessing gave special meaning to the event. Mary and Joseph would remember that blessing for the rest of their lives. Here at Lourdes we are blessed in a very special way and what we receive here enables us to search for ways to express our gratitude for the goodness of God and the mystery of life.

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