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Pilgrimage to Lourdes: Bishop Brendan's Grotto Mass homily notes

John 2:1–2:11

Galway Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes: Grotto Mass – Homily Notes
Monday 1 July 2019

'See, I am making all things new.'

This year, 2019, has been dedicated to St Bernadette here in Lourdes. It is 175 years since Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844 and it is 140 years since she was born into Eternal Life in 1879, at the age of 35 years.

Here we are on the first morning of our pilgrimage at the grotto of Massabielle, the place Mary chose to come in visitation to this 13 year old sickly and asthmatic child of an abjectly impoverished family in 1858. At the time this place was the town dump. Bernadette came here on a winter’s morning, 11th February, with two friends scavenging for firewood, anything they could find that would keep her family warm in the tiny hovel to which her family had been reduced.

Now look at the place today! Transformed! Beautiful in so many ways, attracting hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world year in, year out. For us, reaching this specific spot is the final objective of all our pilgrimages to Lourdes. Here health and hope are restored and lives made new. It is a place of intense and heartfelt prayer. It is, above all, a place of faith. Here all things are made new for us. We come to Mary, the woman of faith, whose words in her son’s ear are as powerful as the gospel today shows us. Just look at the abundance with which he responded to her hint regarding the wine running out.

We come in our own way scavenging too – for mercy, for healing, for new life. In coming here we acknowledge our own particular poverty and need of having “all things made new” for ourselves and those we carry in our hearts.

And we carry our world too, this world of 2019, badly broken in so many ways as it is, and in dire need of transformation. Pope Francis from the start of his ministry has never ceased to speak of how we are turning so much of our world literally into a dump, a wasteland. Pope Francis describes the dumping of food, for example, as a crime against all those who are hungry, literally millions of people. Remember the old proverb: 'Wilful waste makes woeful want'?
So here we are at the grotto coming to Mary, seeking her intercession, a whisper in the ear of her beloved Son. And we implore, also, the prayers of Bernadette, now a much loved Saint of the Church. Our plea is that all things be made new as the One on the throne declared in that first reading today, from the vision of St John we know as the ‘Apocalypse’.

Let’s just pause a minute more over the marvellous story of the wedding at Cana, our gospel today. It is a vital moment at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry as presented to us in the Fourth Gospel. The story, St John tells us, marks ‘the first of the signs given by Jesus’. It was given at a wedding feast. The wedding feast was transformed, made entirely new precisely because 'the mother of Jesus was there'. This is the critical fact about this wedding. The story goes on to say, almost by the way, that 'Jesus and his disciples had also been invited' so you and I, his disciples in 2019, are guests at this wedding too. But Mary is the one who was really there, she saw what was happening – the looming disaster that was about to unfold for this young couple, this newly formed family. No wine, no joy! So to Jesus she whispers 'they have no wine'. And though he seems heedless, she tells the servants 'do whatever he tells you'. A gentle prayer, then absolute trust. They do as she suggests, and the threat of embarrassment and shame is lifted and joy unlimited descends for the young couple who had invited Jesus and Mary into the heart of their lives: six stone water jars, each holding twenty to thirty gallons, transformed into best wine.

The power of Mary’s quite and absolute trust in her Son, in God! The difference having her and her Son at the centre of their new life makes!

Faith is everything, and continues in our world to make all things new. The faith that puts quiet and total trust in Mary and in her Son Jesus who is 'God making his home among mortals', as the first reading says. May we never cease to invite him into our homes and lives every day.

Finally, Faith is no notional thing but something real and practical: 'Do whatever he tells you'. To follow Mary and to follow Jesus and to model our lives on theirs is challenging, yes. But that is the way that all things can and will be made new for ourselves, for those we love and for our world. Amen.