Pope Francis  celebrating Mass in Aglona, Latvia on September 24, 2018. Pope Francis celebrating Mass in Aglona, Latvia on September 24, 2018.  

Pope at Mass in Latvia: Mary shows how be close to and care for others

On day 3 of his 4-day apostolic visit to the Baltic nations, Pope Francis Monday evening concluded his day-long visit to Latvia, celebrating Mass at the sanctuary of the Mother of God in Aglona.

Pope Francis delivered a homily at Mass, holding out Mary at the foot of the cross and at the wedding feast of Cana as a model to Latvians of how they should care for the oppressed, the exploited and the marginalized, and how to receive and adapt themselves to the needs of others. 

Recalling the theme of his Latvian visit -  “Show yourself as Mother!” – Pope Francis said the main way that Mary shows herself is near the cross. 

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The Pope said Mary stands near those who suffer, those from whom the world flees, including those who have been put on trial, condemned by all and deported.  The Pope said it not that they are simply oppressed or exploited; they are completely “outside the system”, on the very fringes of society.  The Mother, the Pope said, also stands close by them, steadfast beneath their cross of incomprehension and suffering.

Standing near

The Holy Father pointed out that for Mary, standing near  is not simply passing by, making a quick visit or engaging in a kind of “tourism of solidarity”, but rather being firmly close to those in painful situations.  

Noting that Mary sees the open wounds of her Son Jesus in their sufferings, the Pope urged Latvians to go out to meet the people, consoling and accompanying them.  He asked them to get involved and let their lives become complicated for the sake of others, ever ready to lift up the fallen, raise up the lowly and to help end all those situations of oppression that make people feel crucified themselves.

Receiving one another

In asking His mother to receive His disciple as her son, the Pope said, Jesus is asking us to fully receive one another.   He said we can stand at the side of many people, even sharing the same home, neighbourhood or workplace… but without embracing or actually “receiving” them with love.

Married couples can live next to each other but not together; many young people feel pained with the distance separating them from adults and many elderly people feel tolerated, but not lovingly cared for and accepted.

Pope Francis pointed out that in opening ourselves to others we can get badly hurt and past conflicts can painfully come to the fore.  But without giving in to frustration or helplessness, Mary shows herself to be open to forgiveness, setting aside resentment and suspicion.  Relationships that heal and free us, the Pope said, are those that open us to encounter and fraternity with others.

When we feel suspicious of others that makes us feel we would be better off, more prosperous and more secure just by ourselves, Mary and the disciples of these lands, the Pope said, invite us to “receive” our brothers and sisters, to care for them, in a spirit of universal fraternity.

Keeping pace with others

At the wedding feast of Cana, Pope Francis said, Mary also shows herself as an obedient disciple, willing to accept and go along with the pace of someone younger than herself.

Harmony, the Pope said,  is always difficult with differences of age, life experiences and circumstances.  But when in faith, we listen to the command to receive and be received, it becomes possible to build unity in diversity, for differences neither restrain nor divide us, but allow us to look more deeply and to see others in their most profound dignity, as sons and daughters of the same Father.

Mary, the Pope said, gives us the courage and humility to help us adapt ourselves to whatever life brings.  She asks us to commit ourselves to welcome one another without discrimination.  In this way, all in Latvia may know that we are willing to show preference to the poor, to raise up those who have fallen, and to receive others just as they come, just as they are.

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Photo gallery of Pope Francis' Mass in Aglona, Latvia
24 September 2018, 15:14