Evangelii Gaudium 24

Last in a series

Pope Francis ends his exhortation with a beautiful reflection on Mary.  He calls her “the icon of motherhood.”

“284. With the Holy Spirit, Mary is always present in the midst of the people. She joined the disciples in praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) and thus made possible the missionary outburst which took place at Pentecost. She is the Mother of the Church which evangelizes, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelization.”

“285. On the cross, when Jesus endured in his own flesh the dramatic encounter of the sin of the world and God’s mercy, he could feel at his feet the consoling presence of his mother and his friend. At that crucial moment, before fully accomplishing the work which his Father had entrusted to him, Jesus said to Mary: ‘Woman, here is your son’. Then he said to his beloved friend: ‘Here is your mother’ (Jn 19:26-27). These words of the dying Jesus are not chiefly the expression of his devotion and concern for his mother; rather, they are a revelatory formula which manifests the mystery of a special saving mission. Jesus left us his mother to be our mother. Only after doing so did Jesus know that ‘all was now finished’ (Jn 19:28). At the foot of the cross, at the supreme hour of the new creation, Christ led us to Mary.”

He experiences Mary not as a distant figure of history but as a missionary right beside us: “286… She is the missionary who draws near to us and accompanies us throughout life, opening our hearts to faith by her maternal love. As a true mother, she walks at our side, she shares our struggles and she constantly surrounds us with God’s love.”

“288. There is a Marian ‘style’ to the Church’s work of evangelization. Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness. In her we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong who need not treat others poorly in order to feel important themselves. Contemplating Mary, we realize that she who praised God for ‘bringing down the mighty from their thrones’ and ‘sending the rich away empty’ (Lk 1:52-53) is also the one who brings a homely warmth to our pursuit of justice. She is also the one who carefully keeps ‘all these things, pondering them in her heart’ (Lk 2:19).”

So we return once again to a contemplative spirit.  Often on this pilgrim journey we experience the tragedies and challenges of life that seem beyond our comprehension.  We also experience the wounds of love that leave us hurt and discouraged.  Mary shows us the way by pondering them in her heart.  She teaches us to appreciate the mystery of life and simply say:  ‘I am your handmaid.  May it be done according to your will.’  In the shadow of the Cross she shows us the way of surrender: to give over to God the hurts that pierce our hearts and to pray for those who did the piercing.  That is not only evangelization.  That is love.

And so we turn to Christ: “288… It is the Risen Christ who tells us, with a power that fills us with confidence and unshakeable hope: ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Rev 21:5). With Mary we advance confidently towards the fulfillment of this promise…”

The darkest part of the night is just before the dawn.  And the dawn is near!