Vatican City (AsiaNews) - In the homily he delivered today during the Mass celebrated in St Peter's Basilica for the Solemnity of the Mother of God and the 48th World Day of Peace, Pope Francis stressed that "Jesus cannot be understood without his Mother". For him, it is impossible "to belong to Christ [. . .] outside the Church" for "Christ and his mother are inseparable, just as inseparable are Christ and the Church, because the Church and Mary always go together (and this is the mystery of women in the church community) and one cannot understand salvation brought by Jesus without considering the Church's motherhood". Indeed, "Without the Church, Jesus Christ ends up as an idea, a moral teaching, a feeling" rather than a "vital and full relationship with a person: Jesus Christ".
Many people expected a homily on the theme of the Day, 'No longer slaves, but brothers,' on the problem of slave labour. Instead, the pope mentioned the message on peace only at the end of his address, in a short paragraph. In its place, the pontiff offered a rigorous theological reflection on the importance of holding together Christ, Mary and the "Holy Mother Church as hierarchy." In fact, at the end of the homily, in an unusual move, he invited the whole congregation to stand and greet the "Holy Mother of God" three times.
The Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431) recognised title 'Mary Mother of God' over the Nestorian proposal to consider Mary only as "the mother of Christ the man." The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, to which Pope Francis is very attached (pictured), was built to celebrate the title of Mary Mother of God.
According to tradition, the lay faithful gathered around the place where the council was being held and threatened the bishops with sticks if they did not proclaim Mary's Divine Motherhood.
Speaking about the incident without his prepared text, the pope said, "Let us contemplate Mary and the Holy Mother of God. Let us greet her together. The courageous people of Ephesus did it, shouting 'Holy Mother of God!' Some people, it is said, had sticks to force the bishops gathered in council to proclaim holy the Mother of God. I invite you - without a stick - to stand and greet her all together, saying 'Holy Mother of God!' three times." The assembly obeyed.
In his homily, Pope Francis underscored the union between Christ and Mary. "Christ and his mother are inseparable: there is a very close relationship between them, as there is between every child and his or her mother. The flesh (caro) of Christ - which, as Tertullian says, is the hinge (cardo) of our salvation - was knit together in the womb of Mary (cf. Ps, 139:13). This inseparability is also clear from the fact that Mary, chosen beforehand to be the Mother of the Redeemer, shared intimately in his entire mission, remaining at her Son's side to the end on Calvary."
"Mary is so closely united to Jesus because she received from him the knowledge of the heart, the knowledge of faith, nourished by her experience as a mother and by her close relationship with her Son. The Blessed Virgin is the woman of faith who made room for God in her heart and in her plans; she is the believer capable of perceiving in the gift of her Son the coming of that "fullness of time"(Gal 4:4) in which God, by choosing the humble path of human existence, entered personally into the history of salvation. That is why Jesus cannot be understood without his Mother."
The pope went on to stress the unity between Christ, Mary and the Church. "Likewise inseparable are Christ and the Church; the salvation accomplished by Jesus cannot be understood without appreciating the motherhood of the Church. To separate Jesus from the Church would introduce an 'absurd dichotomy', as Blessed Paul VI wrote (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 16). It is not possible 'to love Christ but without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but outside the Church' (ibid.). For the Church is herself God's great family, which brings Christ to us. Our faith is not an abstract doctrine or philosophy, but a vital and full relationship with a person: Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God who became man, was put to death, rose from the dead to save us, and is now living in our midst. Where can we encounter him? We encounter him in the Church. It is the Church which says today: 'Behold the Lamb of God;' it is the Church, which proclaims him; it is in the Church that Jesus continues to accomplish his acts of grace which are the sacraments."
The pontiff warned against the pretence of living the Christian faith without the Church. "No manifestation of Christ," he said, "even the most mystical, can ever be detached from the flesh and blood of the Church, from the historical concreteness of the Body of Christ. Without the Church, Jesus Christ ends up as an idea, a moral teaching, a feeling. Without the Church, our relationship with Christ would be at the mercy of our imagination, our interpretations, our moods." Indeed, the Church "is like a mother who tenderly holds Jesus and gives him to everyone with joy and generosity," and it is from that comes the "Church's activity and mission".
"Jesus Christ is the blessing for every man and woman, and for all of humanity. The Church, in giving us Jesus, offers us the fullness of the Lord's blessing. This is precisely the mission of the people of God: to spread to all peoples God's blessing made flesh in Jesus Christ. And Mary, the first and most perfect disciple of Jesus, the model of the pilgrim Church, is the one who opens the way to the Church's motherhood and constantly sustains her maternal mission to all mankind. Mary's tactful maternal witness has accompanied the Church from the beginning. She, the Mother of God, is also the Mother of the Church, and through the Church, the mother of all men and women, and of every people."
"May this gentle and loving Mother obtain for us the Lord's blessing upon the entire human family. On this, the World Day of Peace, we especially implore her intercession that the Lord may grant peace in our day; peace in hearts, peace in families, peace among the nations. The message for the Day of Peace this year is 'No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters'. All of us are called to be free, all are called to be sons and daughters, and each, according to his or her own responsibilities, is called to combat modern forms of enslavement. From every people, culture and religion, let us join our forces. May he guide and sustain us, who, in order to make us all brothers and sisters, became our servant."