Mary’s witness of standing beneath the cross of her Son teaches Catholics how to be close to those around them who are suffering, the pope said at Mass Monday in Latvia.
The Gospel of John says Mary stood near the cross of Christ, “close to her Son,” the pope said Sept. 24. “She stood there, at the foot of the cross, with unwavering conviction, fearless and immovable.”
“This is the main way that Mary shows herself. She stands near those who suffer, those from whom the world flees, including those who have been put on trial, condemned by all, deported.” Even those on the very fringes of society: “the Mother also stands close by them, steadfast beneath their cross of incomprehension and suffering,” he said.
Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Shrine of the Mother of God in Aglona for the third day of a four-day visit to the Baltic states. His last day will be spent in Estonia.
Mary teaches Catholics to stand near others, as she did, he continued. To do so “demands more than simply passing by or making a quick visit… it means that those in painful situations should feel us standing firmly at their side and on their side.”
He stated that those who have been discarded by society can still experience the closeness of their Mother Mary, who sees in all their suffering “the open wounds of her Son Jesus.”
“Like Mary, let us remain steadfast, our hearts at peace in God. Let us be 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,” he said.
Francis pointed out that in the Gospel, when Christ asks his Mother to receive John, and John to receive his Mother, they were standing together at the foot of the cross, but “this was not enough, that they had not yet fully ‘received’ one another.”
Many people often do the same, he said, standing at the side of people, even in the same home, neighborhood and workplace, sharing the same faith, contemplating and experiencing the same mysteries, “but without embracing or actually ‘receiving’ them with love.”
He said in the Eucharist we remember Christ’s passion, and “from the foot of the cross, Mary invites us to rejoice that we have been received as her sons and daughters, even as her Son Jesus invites us to receive her into our own homes and to make her a part of our lives.”
“Mary wants to give us her courage, so that we too can remain steadfast, and her humility, so that, like her, we can adapt to whatever life brings,” he stated.
In his homily, the pope also spoke about Venerable Boleslavs Sloskans, who is buried inside the shrine. Born in what is present-day Latvia, he died in 1981 after more than 30 years in exile from his homeland. While a young bishop, he was also arrested twice by the Soviets and imprisoned by them for around five years.
“Sometimes,” Pope Francis said, “we see a return to ways of thinking that would have us be suspicious of others,” or we think we would be better off and more secure by ourselves. “At those times, Mary and the disciples of these lands invite us to ‘receive’ our brothers and sisters, to care for them, in a spirit of universal fraternity.”