Christians “are weavers of dialogue where hostility is growing; models of fraternal life where society is experiencing tension and hostility; bringers of the sweet fragrance of hospitality and solidarity where personal and collective selfishness too often prevails, protectors and guardians of life where the culture of death reigns.”
Bratislava (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis delivered his last message today before leaving Slovakia, warning Christians that “faith cannot be reduced to a sweetener to make life more palatable.
In his address, the pontiff urged Christians not to be hostile to the world noting that as “Jesus is a sign of contradiction,” they too should be a “sign of contradiction,” open to dialogue, friendship and solidarity, defenders of life.
The National Marian Shrine in Šaštín, where Francis celebrated the last Mass of his journey, has been dedicated to Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows (pictured), the country’s patron saint, since the 1700s.
Today, on her feast day, more than 60,000 people gathered in front of the shrine, which houses a 16th century wooden Pietà, declared miraculous in 1732, after the examination of 726 cases.
Pope Francis, who donated a golden rose to the shrine, made his way among the crowd on his popemobile; among the pilgrims, Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová (pictured).
In his homily, the Holy Father spoke of Mary as a "model of faith” and about how Christians can be “prophetic”.
“This has nothing to do with hostility toward the world, but with being ‘signs of contradiction’ within the world. Christians who can demonstrate the beauty of the Gospel by the way they live. Christians who are weavers of dialogue where hostility is growing; models of fraternal life where society is experiencing tension and hostility; bringers of the sweet fragrance of hospitality and solidarity where personal and collective selfishness too often prevails, protectors and guardians of life where the culture of death reigns.”
The celebration at the shrine began shortly after 9 am (local time) with a moment of prayer by the Pope and the bishops who recited together the prayer of entrustment to the Virgin of the Seven Sorrows. Francis also dedicated his reflection to Mary.
“As the Immaculate Virgin, Mary is the icon of our own vocation, for, like her, we are called to be holy and blameless in love (cf. Eph 1:4), images of Christ.” What is more, in Mary “we can discern three dimensions of faith: [. . .] journey, prophecy and compassion.”
“First, Mary’s is a faith that sets her on a journey” to see her cousin. [. . .] “She did not consider it a privilege to be chosen as the Mother of the Saviour; she did not lose the simple joy of her humility after the visit of the angel; she did not keep thinking about herself within the four walls of her house.”
Instead, “she experienced the gift she had received as a mission to be carried out; she felt urged to open the door and go out; she became completely caught up in God’s own ‘haste’ to reach all people with his saving love. That is why Mary set out on her journey. She chose the unknowns of the journey over the comfort of her daily routines, the weariness of travel over the peace and quiet of home; the risk of a faith that makes our lives a loving gift to others over a placid piety.”
“Mary’s faith is also prophetic,” for she shows that “Where Jesus is concerned, we cannot remain lukewarm, with a foot in both camps; we cannot. When I accept him, he reveals my contradictions, my idols, my temptations. He becomes my resurrection, the one who always lifts me up when I fall, the one who takes me by the hand and lets me start anew.”
“Mary, Mother of Sorrows, remains at the foot the cross. She simply stands there. She does not run away, or try to save herself, or find ways to alleviate her grief. Here is the proof of true compassion: to remain standing beneath the cross. To stand there weeping, yet with the faith that knows that, in her Son, God transfigures pain and suffering and triumphs over death.
“In contemplating the Sorrowful Mother, may we too open our hearts to a faith that becomes compassion, a faith that identifies with those who are hurting, suffering and forced to bear heavy crosses. A faith that does not remain abstract, but becomes incarnate in fellowship with those in need. A faith that imitates God’s way of doing things, quietly relieves the suffering of our world and waters the soil of history with salvation.”
As he bid his final farewell, Francis said: "I carry you in my heart”. Afterwards, he went straight to the airport. A short farewell ceremony followed before his departure for Rome, where he is expected to land at 3.30 pm (local time). (FP)