Message for World Mission Day 2019

Pope Francis

Baptised and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

For the month of October 2019, I have asked that the whole Church revive her missionary awareness and commitment as we commemorate the centenary of the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud of Pope Benedict XV (November 30, 1919). Its farsighted and prophetic vision of the apostolate has made me realise once again the importance of renewing the Church's missionary commitment, and giving fresh evangelical impulse to her work of preaching and bringing to the world the salvation of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again.

The title of the present Message is the same as that of October's Missionary Month: "Baptised and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World". Celebrating this month will help us first to rediscover the missionary dimension of our faith in Jesus Christ - a faith graciously bestowed on us in Baptism. Our filial relationship with God is not something simply private, but always in relation to the Church. Through our communion with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we, together with so many of our other brothers and sisters, are born to new life. This divine life is not a product for sale – we do not practise proselytism – but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed: that is the meaning of mission. We received this gift freely and we share it freely (cf. Mt 10:8), without excluding anyone. God wills that all people be saved by coming to know the truth and experiencing His mercy through the ministry of the Church, the universal sacrament of salvation (cf. 1 Tim 2:4; Lumen Gentium, 48).

The Church is on mission in the world. Faith in Jesus Christ enables us to see all things in their proper perspective, as we view the world with God's own eyes and heart. Hope opens us up to the eternal horizons of the divine life that we share. Charity, of which we have a foretaste in the Sacraments and in fraternal love, impels us to go forth to the ends of the earth (cf. Mic 5:4; Mt 28:19; Acts 1:8; Rom 10:18). A Church that presses forward to the farthest frontiers requires a constant and ongoing missionary conversion. How many saints, how many men and women of faith, witness to the fact that this unlimited openness, this going forth in mercy, is indeed possible and realistic, for it is driven by love and its deepest meaning as gift, sacrifice and gratuitousness (cf. 2 Cor 5:14-21)! The man who preaches God must be a man of God (cf. Maximum Illud).

This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptised man and woman is a mission. People in love never stand still: they are drawn out of themselves; they are attracted and attract others in turn; they give themselves to others and build relationships that are life-giving. As far as God's love is concerned, no one is useless or insignificant. Each of us is a mission to the world, for each of us is the fruit of God's love. Even if parents can betray their love by lies, hatred and infidelity, God never takes back His gift of life. From eternity, He has destined each of His children to share in His divine and eternal life (cf. Eph 1:3-6).

This life is bestowed on us in baptism, which grants us the gift of faith in Jesus Christ, the conqueror of sin and death. Baptism gives us rebirth in God's own image and likeness, and makes us members of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. In this sense, Baptism is truly necessary for salvation, for it ensures that we are always and everywhere sons and daughters in the house of the Father, and never orphans, strangers or slaves. What in the Christian is a sacramental reality – whose fulfilment is found in the Eucharist – remains the vocation and destiny of every man and woman in search of conversion and salvation. For Baptism fulfils the promise of the gift of God that makes everyone a son or daughter in the Son. We are children of our natural parents, but in Baptism, we receive the origin of all fatherhood and true motherhood: no one can have God for a Father who does not have the Church for a mother (cf. Saint Cyprian, De Cath. Eccl., 6).

Our mission, then, is rooted in the fatherhood of God and the motherhood of the Church. The mandate given by the Risen Jesus at Easter is inherent in Baptism: as the Father has sent me, so I send you, filled with the Holy Spirit, for the reconciliation of the world (cf. Jn 20:19-23; Mt 28:16-20). This mission is part of our identity as Christians; it makes us responsible for enabling all men and women to realise their vocation to be adoptive children of the Father, to recognise their personal dignity and to appreciate the intrinsic worth of every human life, from conception until natural death. Today's rampant secularism, when it becomes an aggressive cultural rejection of God's active fatherhood in our history, is an obstacle to authentic human fraternity, which finds expression in reciprocal respect for the life of each person. Without the God of Jesus Christ, every difference is reduced to a baneful threat, making impossible any real fraternal acceptance and fruitful unity within the human race.

The universality of the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ led Pope Benedict XV to call for an end to all forms of nationalism and ethnocentrism, or the merging of the preaching of the Gospel with the economic and military interests of the colonial powers. In his Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, the Pope noted that the Church's universal mission requires setting aside exclusivist ideas of membership in one's own country and ethnic group. The opening of the culture and the community to the salvific newness of Jesus Christ requires leaving behind every kind of undue ethnic and ecclesial introversion. Today too, the Church needs men and women who, by virtue of their baptism, respond generously to the call to leave behind home, family, country, language and local Church, and to be sent forth to the nations, to a world not yet transformed by the Sacraments of Jesus Christ and His holy Church. By proclaiming God's Word, bearing witness to the Gospel and celebrating the life of the Spirit, they summon to conversion, baptise and offer Christian salvation, with respect for the freedom of each person and in dialogue with the cultures and religions of the peoples to whom they are sent. The missio ad gentes, which is always necessary for the Church, thus contributes in a fundamental way to the process of ongoing conversion in all Christians. Faith in the Easter event of Jesus; the ecclesial mission received in Baptism; the geographic and cultural detachment from oneself and one's own home; the need for salvation from sin and liberation from personal and social evil—all these demand the mission that reaches to the very ends of the earth.

The providential coincidence of this centenary year with the celebration of the Special Synod on the Churches in the Amazon allows me to emphasise how the mission entrusted to us by Jesus with the gift of His Spirit is also timely and necessary for those lands and their peoples. A renewed Pentecost opens wide the doors of the Church, in order that no culture remain closed in on itself, and no people cut off from the universal communion of the faith. No one ought to remain closed in self-absorption, in the self-referentiality of his or her own ethnic and religious affiliation. The Easter event of Jesus breaks through the narrow limits of worlds, religions and cultures, calling them to grow in respect for the dignity of men and women, and towards a deeper conversion to the truth of the Risen Lord who gives authentic life to all.

Here I am reminded of the words of Pope Benedict XVI at the beginning of the meeting of Latin American Bishops at Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007. I would like to repeat these words and make them my own: "Yet what did the acceptance of the Christian faith mean for the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean? For them, it meant knowing and welcoming Christ, the unknown God whom their ancestors were seeking, without realising it, in their rich religious traditions. Christ is the Saviour for whom they were silently longing. It also meant that they received, in the waters of Baptism, the divine life that made them children of God by adoption; moreover, they received the Holy Spirit who came to make their cultures fruitful, purifying them and developing the numerous seeds that the incarnate Word had planted in them, thereby guiding them along the paths of the Gospel… The Word of God, in becoming flesh in Jesus Christ, also became history and culture. The utopia of going back to breathe life into the pre-Columbian religions, separating them from Christ and from the universal Church, would not be a step forward: indeed, it would be a step back. In reality, it would be a retreat towards a stage in history anchored in the past." (Address at the Inaugural Session, May 13, 2007: Insegnamenti III, 1 [2007], 855-856)

We entrust the Church's mission to Mary our Mother. In union with her Son, from the moment of the Incarnation, the Blessed Virgin set out on her pilgrim way. She was fully involved in the mission of Jesus, a mission that became her own at the foot of the Cross—the mission of cooperating, as Mother of the Church, in bringing new sons and daughters of God to birth in the Spirit and in faith.

I would like to conclude with a brief word about the Pontifical Mission Societies, already proposed in Maximum Illud as a missionary resource. The Pontifical Mission Societies serve the Church's universality as a global network of support for the Pope in his missionary commitment by prayer, the soul of mission, and charitable offerings from Christians throughout the world. Their donations assist the Pope in the evangelisation efforts of particular Churches (the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith), in the formation of local clergy (the Pontifical Society of Saint Peter the Apostle), in raising missionary awareness in children (Pontifical Society of Missionary Childhood) and in encouraging the missionary dimension of Christian faith (Pontifical Missionary Union). In renewing my support for these Societies, I trust that the Extraordinary Missionary Month of October 2019 will contribute to the renewal of their missionary service to my ministry.

To men and women missionaries, and to all those who, by virtue of their baptism, share in any way in the mission of the Church, I send my heartfelt blessing.

From the Vatican, June 9, 2019, Solemnity of Pentecost

To Restore All Things in Christ

Cardinal Oswald Gracias sounded a clarion call for the Church in Mumbai to recognise the context of the times we live in – politically, economically, sociologically, culturally and ideologically – so that it can effectively evangelise the Good News and the Story of Jesus to all God’s children. His Eminence made these remarks at the solemn Eucharistic celebration that took place at St Pius X College Seminary, Goregaon, on Saturday, October 5, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Diamond Jubilee Year Celebrations.

"Today is a day to reflect on the Priesthood, our apostolate and the challenges facing us," he said. "The Church exists to evangelise, but what does ‘evangelisation’ mean for us today in India, in Mumbai, in 2019? Have we been adequately responsive to the call of the Spirit? Is the Church in Mumbai sufficiently outward-looking? Or have we been self-referential, looking inwards within the walls of the Church? The world of today is different from the world of 1960, when the Seminary was built; globalisation, secularism, materialism, instant success and gratification are extolled virtues today. How do we understand, live and proclaim the Gospel in this context?"

Cardinal Gracias urged the faithful and clergy to revisit what is probably the best Church document on Evangelisation – ‘Evangelii Nuntiandi’ – Pope Saint Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation on Catholic Evangelisation. Paul VI broadened the concept of evangelisation by referring to Presence, Witness, Proclamation and Integral Human Development. Then came the ground-breaking insights of Vatican II that spoke about the seeds of the Spirit present also in other religions and the salvation of non-Christians. Today, evangelisation also means dialogue, inculturation, promoting human rights, promoting the rights of women, protecting children and making the face of Jesus present to suffering humanity.

The Eucharist was concelebrated by Archbishop Felix Machado - Diocese of Vasai, Archbishop Elias Gonsalves – Archdiocese of Nagpur, Bishop Lourdes Daniel – Diocese of Nashik, Bishop Edwin Colaco – Bishop Emeritus of Aurangabad, present and emeritus auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Bombay, all of whom were moulded and formed within the hallowed halls of this institution. Bishop Thomas Dabre of Pune and Bishop Agnelo Gracias could not be present. The nostalgia and deep love for the Seminary was palpable in their memories and recollections of life in the seminary. His Eminence thanked and praised God for the gift of the founding fathers of the Seminary—Cardinal Valerian Gracias of happy memory, his collaborators, advisors, those who constructed the magnificent edifice, and those who continued this beautiful institution. He also thanked the Jesuits for taking charge and moulding the Seminary during its fledgling years, and also all the rectors and professors, past and present, laity and clergy, who have contributed towards the building of the ethos of St Pius X Seminary.

The Eucharist was followed by an engaging and masterful Panel discussion on "The Priesthood Today: Challenges and Opportunities". The panelists were Royston Braganza, CEO, Grameen Bank and named one of the top four CEOs in Asia, Rev. Fr Frazer Mascarenhas SJ, former Principal, St Xavier’s College, Rev Fr Victor Ferrao, Professor of Philosophy, Rachol Seminary, Goa and Teesta Setalvad, renowned Civil Rights activist, journalist and Secretary – Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP). Responding to the Cardinal’s call to situate evangelisation in the context of the 21st century, all four panelists spoke on different challenges facing the Catholic Church, and its priests and laity today, because of headwinds in politics, economics, education and social upheaval. They challenged the audience to break forth from the ‘business as usual’ mentality, and engage with the larger society, going beyond the ‘Christian’ viewpoint.

In a dramatic gesture reminiscent of the inauguration of the Seminary 59 years ago, Cardinal Oswald Gracias pressed a button to unveil the special Diamond Jubilee logo, conceptualised and designed by the current seminarians of St Pius X College. Fr Aniceto Pereira, Rector of the Seminary, recalling the motto of the celebrations "Instaurare Omnia in Christo" (To restore all things in Christ), cherished the visionaries who gifted this beautiful institution to the Archdiocese, and expressed the need to renew and rediscover the essence of the priesthood, keeping the figure of the Eternal High Priest Jesus Christ at the centre of the Church, the priestly vocation, and strategies for evangelisation in our world today.

We offer this hallowed institution to the Lord on the occasion of its Diamond Jubilee, and pray that St Pius X College become one of the premier institutions of priestly and lay formation of the Church in India.

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.

Baptised and Sent

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV's Apostolic Letter Maximum illud (November 30, 1919) on the activities carried out by missionaries around the world. Pope Benedict XV's papacy, from September 3, 1914 until his death on January 22, 1922, aged 67, was during World War I and its immediate aftermath. Among his many recognitions, Benedict was known as 'the Pope of Missions'. Pope Francis has asked the world to embark on 'An Extraordinary Missionary Month' in the month of October this year, to commemorate the 100 years since Pope Benedict XV wrote Maximum illud.

On World Mission Sunday, October 22, 2017, Pope Francis declared, "I hereby call for an Extraordinary Missionary Month to be celebrated in October 2019, with the aim of fostering an increased awareness of the missio ad gentes (missions to the people) and taking up again with renewed fervour the missionary transformation of the Church's life and pastoral activity."

Reawakening an awareness of the missio ad gentes, and reinvigorating the responsibility of proclaiming the Gospel with new enthusiasm, are themes that combine Pope Benedict XV's pastoral concern in Maximum illud with the missionary vitality Pope Francis has expressed in Evangelii Gaudium (2013), his first major document. In EG, Pope Francis too highlighted that we are all called to be 'Missionary Disciples'. The first sentence of the document says, 'The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.' (EG 1). He stressed that 'missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church's activity' (EG 15); and he wrote (in EG 27):

"I dream of a 'missionary option', that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church's customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today's world, rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth, and in this way, to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with Himself. As John Paul II once said to the Bishops of Oceania: "All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal, if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion." [Ecclesia in Oceania]"

Pope Francis has provided the following theme 'Baptised and sent: the Church of Christ on mission in the world' for the Extraordinary Missionary Month to reignite the baptismal awareness of the People of God in the mission of the Church. The Pope has specified four dimensions to live more intensely the journey of preparation for, and implementation of, the Extraordinary Missionary Month in October.

1. A personal encounter with Jesus Christ living in his Church: in the Eucharist, in the Word of God, and in personal and communal prayer

2. Testimony: missionary saints, martyrs, and confessors of the faith as an expression of the Church scattered throughout the world

3. Missionary formation: biblical, catechetical, spiritual, and theological

4. Missionary charity

In his message for World Mission Day and for the Extraordinary Missionary Month, Pope Francis says, "The missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptised man and woman is a mission. People in love never stand still; they are drawn out of themselves; they are attracted and attract others in turn; they give themselves to others and build relationships that are life-giving. As far as God's love is concerned, no one is useless or insignificant. Each of us is a mission to the world, for each of us is the fruit of God's love."

"Today too, the Church needs men and women who, by virtue of their baptism, respond generously to the call to leave behind home, family, country, language and local Church, and to be sent forth to the nations, to a world not yet transformed by the Sacraments of Jesus Christ and His holy Church… The missio ad gentes, which is always necessary for the Church, thus contributes in a fundamental way to the process of ongoing conversion in all Christians."

(collated from various sources)

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.

A “Francis” Call to Protect our Earth Home

The Season of Creation which began on September 1 with the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, comes to a close on October 4, the feast of St Francis of Assisi. This was the fifth consecutive year of the Season's observance, since Pope Francis invited Catholics in 2015 to join other Christian denominations to join in its celebration. Significantly, this year's Season of Creation saw a strong and high-pitched narrative of environmental issues dominating secular news and politics. The forest fires in the Amazon and Africa, the rising spate of floods and extreme temperatures across the globe, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg's ferocious interventions on international platforms in front of world leaders, Climate Strikes by school students, and our own 'Save Aarey' movement back home, have hogged headlines this past month.

While we grapple between hope and despair, urging our own elected representatives to put our future over unsustainable development, St Francis of Assisi has much to teach us on how to see the world as our 'home', rather than just a planet on which we live. For Francis, the entire universe was a manifestation of the abundant goodness and love of God. God creates not out of necessity, but rather out of love, and hence everything is a pure 'gift'. For him, therefore, the world bore an 'imprint' of the Divine Majesty.

The Nature mystic's vision of Creation was world-affirming. He did not regard the spiritual as superior to the material; rather, the material world is where we can meet God. Francis therefore placed great importance in treating the world as his home, and his fellow creatures – both animate and inanimate – as his brothers and sisters. Thomas of Celano, Francis' earliest biographer, says of the saint that '….he delighted in all the works of God's hands, and from the vision of joy on earth, his mind soared aloft to the life-giving source and cause of it all. In everything beautiful, he saw Him who is beauty itself, and he followed his Beloved everywhere by his likeness imprinted on Creation.'

Francis saw a world where Creation was not exploited, abused, controlled or possessed, but cared for with reverence and love. The problem with our contemporary world is that it over-values the materialistic over the spiritual. In Francis' world, nothing was useless, rubbish or to be discarded. Every material thing too had value. Francis' view of the world placed the gift of Creation, the care of our home above the materialistic greed for profit and unsustainable development.

From St Francis to Pope Francis, this 'Francis' outlook towards the world and its inhabitants continues today. The Pope has become one of the world's foremost voices for action against Climate Change and protecting the planet's biodiversity. This is not just an environmental issue, but a human issue, since access to food, water and clean energy, rising sea levels, desertification and depleting natural resources are at the heart of much of the world's conflicts today. Finding peace among countries and peoples will depend much on learning to live in peace with Creation, with an equitable distribution of the Earth's resources between human beings and animals.

The human calamity caused by large scale migration is one of the consequences of the destruction of our natural home. As we celebrate Migrant Sunday in our archdiocese this Sunday, we reflect on why we must strive to build and protect local and green industry, as against large and inhuman industrial centres, which uproot people from their homes, families and communities. Mahatma Gandhi, whose 150th birth anniversary we celebrate this year, was also a strong advocate of sustainable development, limiting materialistic wants, encouraging small scale and village industry and respecting the nation's biological and cultural diversity.

The Catholic Church in Mumbai has taken a number of steps at the level of local communities to foster a 'greener' style of living. Responding to Pope Francis' call to action and our own Archbishop's Green Diocese Initiative, parishes across the island city and beyond have undertaken anti-plastic drives, cleanliness drives, planting of trees and saplings, environmental crusades, observance of Earth Hour and respecting the use of electricity and water. However, this movement within the Church risks being limited to the confines of the minority Catholic community. The Catholic Church has a wonderful opportunity to make this a 'people's movement', sharing its rich treasure and insights with all men, women and children of good will in our city. It is imperative and urgent that we reach out to the larger community and those in power to ensure a collaborative and effective change in policy-making, lifestyle, and economic priorities for the protection of our common home and for our children.

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.

Servant of God

It was indeed a moment of pride and joy for the Archdiocese of Bombay on Saturday, September 14, as His Eminence, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, presided over the opening ceremony of the Cause for Beatification and Canonisation of Msgr George Fernandes, a priest of the Archdiocese, who is also credited with founding the Congregation of the Poor Sisters of Our Lady (PSOL), a Religious Institute of Pontifical Right. The ceremony took place at St Andrew’s Church, Bandra.

Msgr George Fernandes (baptismal name: Antonio Benedicto Fernandes) was declared to be a ‘Servant of God’ which is the first step in the road towards possible sainthood. The declaration was made by a decree issued by His Eminence, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, forming a diocesan tribunal to initiate the inquiry, along with the reading out of the ‘Nihil Obstat’ from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. This declaration means that the Holy See has accepted the application for the Cause of Sainthood, and this now paves the way for beginning the diocesan process of inquiry into his life, holiness and works.

Born in Goa on April 23, 1903, George was the second son of John Luis Fernandes and Isabella Ratton. After his Matriculation at the Goan Union High School, he joined the Papal Seminary at Kandy, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Bombay on September 23, 1929. In 1961, he was appointed Domestic Prelate to the Pope, and the title of Monsignor was conferred upon him. In his 41 years of ministry, he served in eight parishes of the Archdiocese.

The founding of the religious congregation – The Poor Sisters of Our Lady – was indeed the crowning achievement of Msgr George. A real need was felt for a Diocesan Congregation of nuns, culled from local women. Other religious congregations were present, but these were mostly missionary orders; a local congregation would understand better the language, customs and requirements of the indigenous clergy and the laity.

Msgr George Fernandes set about getting a group together, and on September 15, 1939, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the Congregation came into being by the decree of the Most Rev. Thomas D. Roberts, SJ, the then Archbishop of Bombay. A band of seven eager postulants became the nucleus from which this “home grown” Diocesan Congregation would grow. Msgr George continued to harvest vocations for the Institute, which had a place of pride in his heart, till the time of his death.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias expressed his great joy with the fact that the process for canonisation had been initiated for the very first time for a diocesan priest belonging to the Archdiocese. He recalled his fond memories of Msgr George, who was Principal of his school and Parish Priest of St Michael Church, Mahim. Msgr George had a tremendous impact on the youth of the parish, amongst whom was the future Cardinal and Archbishop of Bombay. It was Msgr George who had played an instrumental role in encouraging him to join the seminary. Cardinal Gracias reminisced about Msgr George being a creative organiser, an excellent preacher, a great educationist and a lover of the poor and needy.

The opening of the cause of canonisation for one of our very own is a proud moment for each of us, and an inspiration to strive for the virtues of sanctity, to which God calls each of us.

(information on the life of Msgr George Fernandes sourced from www.psol.org.in)

Mary at the Tree of the Cross

Fr Anthony Charanghat

The memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows used to be called the feast of the 'Seven Dolours' from the Latin word for 'sorrows'. The seven traditional sorrows of Mary are the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, losing the child Jesus, meeting Jesus on the way to Calvary, standing at the foot of the Cross, taking the body of Jesus down from the Cross, and the burial of Jesus. This feast focuses on Mary's intimate role of active participation in redemption, intimately linked with the salvation of humankind by Christ, and not just on her special privileges of grace.

The theology underlying this feast points to the truth that the Kingdom of God is erected in our life and in the world not just in grand triumphant moments, but more commonly through suffering. We behold the New Eve standing courageously and lovingly – not fainting or disconsolate – standing (Stabat Mater) beside the Tree of the Cross, which is likewise the divine response of the New Adam to the tree of temptation.

Suffering for the Kingdom of God has great dignity and spiritual power. Pope Pius IX once remarked that Mary stood at the foot of the Cross in the Gospel of John. As our sequence says, 'Stabat mater dolorosa juxta crucem lacrimosa'. Mary stood there. She was weeping, but not in despair, not beating the ground in grief, not collapsed in tears. She stood there, trusting that this is how it must be, obedient to the Father's will.

Jesus 'gave up His spirit,' but only after 'knowing that all was now finished,' completed, consummated. What brought about that fulfilment? Nothing less than the entrustment of the Beloved Disciple and the Holy Mother to each other. In other words, Christ's work of redemption would not have been fully accomplished had He not brought about the union of disciple and Mother.

While Mary is losing the Son of her womb, she is being given the gift of a multitude of children in the person of the Beloved Disciple, representative of every believer, for Jesus is "the first-born among many brethren" (Rom 8:29). For his part, the Beloved Disciple (which means you and I) are given the gift of a loving Mother, on whose powerful intercession he (and we) can rely, if he does indeed take Mary "into his home." Taking her "into his home" is more than giving her a room in his house; it means making room in his life for her, who is now his Mother in the order of grace.

Simply put, making room for Mary in one's life as a disciple is not an 'add-on', or worse, a deification of Mary; it brings the covenant of salvation to completion. The "woman," who was mildly rebuked at Cana for trying to anticipate Jesus' "hour," now receives a divine mandate to be a motherly intercessor for His brothers and sisters in the family of the Church. The great moments that built up nations, for example, were forged through suffering, and were not painless. The same is true of bringing the Kingdom of God into our world.

The memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows reminds us that Mary was part of Jesus' life, both in His suffering and now in His glory. It reminds us that the Kingdom of God is built up through suffering in union with Christ. Finally, it shows us the immense dignity of those who suffer for the sake of the Kingdom, standing at the Cross and collaborating in the plan of salvation.

Mary can help us stand before the crosses in our life with dignity, trust and strength. We behold the New Eve standing courageously and lovingly beside the Tree of the life-giving Cross. And the dying Jesus utters His last will and testament: "Woman, behold your Son. Behold your mother."