ANNUAL LOURDES DAY MASSCELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HARTAT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE,ON SATURDAY, 3 DECEMBER 2011 AT 10.30AM
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I welcome you all to this special Mass for the Sick and Elderly, drawing as it does on the remarkable power of Lourdes and the loving care of Mary our Mother, which shines forth from that special place of pilgrimage.
With deep gratitude for the assistance of the Order of Malta, I ask that we all enter into this Mass, praying especially for our sick and elderly brothers and sisters that their share in the passion of Christ may lead to resurrection and that this Mass and the sprinkling with Lourdes water after Mass may bring peace, healing and comfort.
Brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge our sins and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.
In the same way that we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes on 11 February throughout the Church, this special celebration under Our Lady’s patronage helps us to enter into the mystery of suffering to be more sensitive to our sick brothers and sisters.
In his message for the World Day of the Sick Pope Benedict uses the telling words: “If every person is our brother, how much more must the sick, the suffering and those in need of care be at the centre of our attention, so that none of them feels forgotten or marginalised.”
Many people here have hidden sufferings. Pope John Paul II said in his letter, Spe Salvi: “The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through compassion is a cruel and inhuman society.” (John Paul II, Spe Salvi, n. 38)
One has only to visit Lourdes or to look at a crucifix to see how suffering is at the centre of our human condition. We know too that Jesus went to the greatest depths of suffering on the cross to unfold for us the limitless nature of God’s personal love for each of us. Saint Peter even wrote: “By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24) While we know that the apostles shrank back from the idea of Our Lord going to his passion and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus were sad because of the same suffering, they immediately saw them in a new context when Jesus walked beside them on the road. We know too that Thomas who had refused to believe, when shown the wounds of Jesus said: “My Lord and my God.”
Today then is a moment of awareness of suffering and of its transforming power. Pope Benedict said in his message: “It is precisely through the wounds of Christ that we are able to see with eyes of hope all the burdens that affect humanity. In rising again the Lord did not remove suffering and evil from the world, but he defeated them at their root. He opposed the arrogance of evil with the omnipotence of his love. He has shown us that the way of peace and joy is love: ‘Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another’.” (John 13:34)
So when we see people suffering we turn to Christ and see the purpose of suffering because God suffers with each of us. Saint Bernard even says: “Jesus became man so that he could suffer with man in a real way in flesh and blood. To every human suffering there has entered one who shares suffering and endurance and gives God’s participating love so as to make the star of hope rise.”
Today, dear friends, as we meet Jesus in the Eucharist where he comes as food for our journey we recognise and serve him in the poor and in the sick, building bridges of love and solidarity so that no one feels alone, but near to God. My dear people, may you feel the nearness of Jesus’ heart, full of love and say in the prayer of Saint Ignatius: “Water of the side of Christ wash me, Passion of Christ strengthen me. O good Jesus, hear my prayers In your wounds hide me.” (Prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola)
+ Denis J. Hart,ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.