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Homilies - Bishop Brendan Leahy

Mass at the Grotto - Lourdes -  23 June 2014


Millions of people have visited this Grotto since that first February morning in 1858 when the “Beautiful Lady”, as Bernadette put, began a conversation with her. Today we are part of that conversation. We all feel an inner silence, peace and joy here. Not a “happy-go-lucky” joy but rather a deep joy born from the conversion of knowing and being known by God. Mary reminds us of that.

As Fr. Micheál Liston puts in his book, Come and See: The Story of Lourdes, people who come here know that here you will not be asked about your examination results or your bank balance or how many friends you have on social media sites. This grotto and its story says to each of us: “No matter what situation you are in, you too are invited and you matter to God. You are the centre of his love.”

Often we can think that God has to look after everybody and so has to divide his love into little parcels, a little bit for everybody. But that’s not God. In every moment, God gives himself totally. His love is total, unique, full for each of us. Each of us is the centre of the world for God. We see a glimpse of that in the care shown to the sick who are here. They are at the centre of Lourdes.

So as we come to the Grotto – with a prayer intention or with a worry, with a health issue, or with a general desire to take a step in life – let’s come with confidence and enter into the conversation that Bernadette experienced with Mary. I would like to suggest three things as we can do.

Firstly, let’s listen. Mary instilled an attitude of listening in Bernadette precisely here. Mary, the woman so full of God, so full of love – and that is the meaning of the Immaculate Conception - , the woman loved so much by God as to be so great as to contain God, Mary utters to each of us the words of her Magnificat: “look, God is great, rejoice in God our saviour, he is looking after us; he wants to do great things in our lives”. Listen to that message deep within us.

Secondly, trust. We read in today’s Gospel that Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana. He wants to bring about change in our lives too. Remember that Mary can speed up time! Jesus had said to Mary that his hour for the miracle had not yet come but she simply told the stewards “do whatever he tells you” and Jesus performed the miracle. Mary has brought about change quicker that was expected. Trust that God can bring about the change that we might feel we can’t.

The third suggestion I would like to make today is that we propose and decide to “do whatever” Jesus tells us. I know of a woman who fifty years ago came to Lourdes and asked Jesus and Mary to help her find her direction in life. A month later when she returned home she met a group of people who were starting a new community in the Church and she felt it was just right for her and she consecrated her life to God.

I also know of a girl, Sally, from Belfast in Ireland, who told me of a turning point in her life.  She had been on a pilgrimage abroad and really experienced the love of God during it and felt she wanted to live in a new way. When she returned home, she was with a group of friends and they were going into a shop and they spotted a gang up the road.  One of her friends said to Sally:  "do you see that gang?  they are out to get us...".  And sure enough, when they came out of the shop, the gang attacked them.  There was a scuffle and Sally fell to the ground.  A brick had been thrown which hit her in the lower back.  As she was lying on the ground she thought to herself: "this has got to change…but history will never change...except that it begin to change in me, in my heart".

Bernadette wanted others to know the message of joy, the “secret of Lourdes” as the former Bishop of Limerick, Jeremiah Newman used to call it. In a sense we can apply the marvellous words of the first letter of St. John to Bernadette’s conversation with Mary and to that of countless others who have come to Lourdes, found something deep, experienced a living community of joy even in the middle of sickness, and went out to tell others:

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life… We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Let’s pray that during these days we can help each other have a deep conversation with God that will open up for us by the love we have for one another. And then when we return home we’ll find new courage to continue to be Lourdes, as it were, for others.

So, in summary, at the Grotto today let’s decide to listen, trust and “do”.