The entirety of the Pope's homily delivered at the Vélodrome in front of 60,000 people

The entirety of the Pope’s homily delivered at the Vélodrome in front of 60,000 people

It is said in the Scriptures that King David, having established his kingdom, decided to transport the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. After summoning the people, he got up and left to take her. On the way, he danced before her with the people, exulting with joy at the presence of the Lord (2 Sam 6:1-15). It is with this scene in the background that the evangelist Luke tells us of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth: Mary also gets up and leaves towards the region of Jerusalem and, when she enters Elizabeth’s house , the child that she carries in her womb, quivers with joy upon recognizing the arrival of the Messiah, begins to dance as David did in front of the Ark (cf. Lk 1, 39-45).

Mary is therefore presented as the true Ark of the Covenant which introduces the incarnate Lord into the world. She is the young Virgin who goes to meet the barren old woman and, by carrying Jesus, she becomes the sign of the visit of God, conqueror of all sterility. She is the Mother who goes up to the mountains of Judah to tell us that God is on his way towards us, to seek us with his love and make us exult with joy. It is God who sets out.

In these two women, Mary and Elizabeth, the visit of God is revealed to humanity: one is young and the other old, one is virgin and the other sterile, and yet they are both pregnant so that it is “impossible”. This is God’s work in our lives: He makes possible even what seems impossible, He generates life, even in sterility.

Brothers and sisters, let us ask ourselves with sincerity of heart: do we believe that God is at work in our lives? Do we believe that the Lord, in a hidden and often unpredictable way, acts in history, performs wonders and is also at work in our societies marked by worldly secularism and a certain religious indifference?

There is a way to discern whether we have this confidence in the Lord. What is this means? The Gospel says that “when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child trembled within her” (v. 41). This is the sign: to flinch.

He who believes, who prays, who welcomes the Lord thrills in the Spirit, feels that something is moving inside, he “dances” with joy. And I would like to dwell on this: the thrill of faith. Above all, the experience of faith provokes a thrill in the face of life. To quiver is to be “touched inside”, to have an inner quiver, to feel that something is moving in our heart. It is the opposite of a flat, cold heart, settled in a quiet life, which armors itself in indifference and becomes impermeable, which hardens, insensitive to everything and to everyone, even to the tragic rejection of human life which is today denied to many people who emigrate, to many children who have not yet been born, and to many abandoned elderly people. A cold and flat heart drags life along mechanically, without passion, without momentum, without desire. And we can get sick of all this in our European society: the cynicism, the disenchantment, the resignation, the uncertainty, a general feeling of sadness – all at once: sadness, this sadness hidden in the hearts -. Someone called them “sad passions”: it is a life without thrill. He who is born to faith, on the other hand, recognizes the presence of the Lord, like the child in Elizabeth’s womb. He recognizes his work in the flowering of the days and he receives a new perspective to see reality. Even in the midst of difficulties, problems and suffering, he perceives God’s visit daily and feels accompanied and supported by Him. Faced with the mystery of personal life and the challenges of society, those who believe experience a thrill, a passion, a dream to cultivate, an interest that pushes them to become personally involved. Now each of us can ask ourselves: Do I feel these things? Do I have these things? He who is like this knows that the Lord is present in everything, whom he calls, whom he invites to bear witness to the Gospel in order to gently build, through the gifts and charisms received, a new world. The experience of faith, in addition to a thrill before life, also causes a thrill before our neighbor. In the mystery of the Visitation, in fact, we see that the visit of God does not take place through extraordinary celestial events, but in the simplicity of an encounter. God comes to the threshold of a family home, in the tender embrace between two women, in the intersection of two pregnancies full of wonder and hope. And, in this encounter, there is Mary’s solicitude, Elizabeth’s wonder, the joy of sharing.

Let us always remember, even in the Church: God is relationship and often he visits us through human encounters, when we know how to open ourselves to others, when there is a thrill for the life of those who pass each day by our side and when our heart does not remain impassive and insensitive to the wounds of those who are the most fragile. Our metropolitan cities, and so many European countries like France where different cultures and religions coexist, are in this sense a great challenge against the exacerbations of individualism, against the selfishness and closures which produce solitude and suffering. Let us learn from Jesus to feel trembling for those who live alongside us, let us learn from Him who, before the tired and exhausted crowds, feels compassion and is moved (cf. Mk 6:34), trembles with mercy before the flesh hurt by those he meets. As your great saint, Vincent de Paul, states, “we must try to soften our hearts and make them susceptible to the suffering and miseries of our neighbors, and pray to God to give us the true spirit of mercy, which is God’s own spirit”, to the point of recognizing that the poor are “our lords and masters” (Correspondence, interviews, documents, Paris 1920-25, p. 341; pp. 392-393).

Brothers, sisters, I think of the many “tremors” that France has experienced, of its history rich in holiness, culture, artists and thinkers who have fascinated so many generations. Even today, our life, the life of the Church, France, Europe need this: the grace of a thrill, a new thrill of faith, charity and hope. We need to rediscover passion and enthusiasm, to rediscover the taste for commitment to fraternity, to still dare the risk of love in families and towards the weakest, and to rediscover in the Gospel a grace which transforms and makes life beautiful.

Let us look at Mary who disturbs herself while setting out and who teaches us that God is precisely like that: he disturbs us, he sets us in motion, he makes us “flinch”, as with Elizabeth. And we want to be Christians who encounter God through prayer and our brothers through love, Christians who thrill, vibrate, welcome the fire of the Spirit to let themselves be burned by today’s questions, by the challenges of the Mediterranean, by the cry of the poor, by the “holy utopias” of fraternity and peace which await to be realized.

Brothers and sisters, with you, I pray to the Virgin, Our Lady of the Guard, to watch over your life, to guard France, to guard all of Europe, and to make us thrill in the Spirit. And I would like to do so with the words of Paul Claudel: “I see the church open. (…) / I have nothing to offer and nothing to ask. / I only come, Mother, to look at you. / Look at you , cry with happiness, knowing this: That I am your son and that you are here. (…) / To be with you, Mary, in this place where you are (…) / Because you are there forever, / Simply because that you are Mary, / Simply because you exist, / Mother of Jesus Christ, be thanked!” (“The Virgin at Noon”, Poèmes de Guerre 1914-1916, Paris, 1922).

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