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As a mother who defends her children

· The Pope's Mass at Santa Marta ·

As a mother who loves us, protects us, and gives us the strength to go forward in the fight against evil. This is how Pope Francis described the Church in his homily on Tuesday morning, 17 September, during the Mass he celebrated in the Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Commenting on the Gospel passage from the day's Liturgy, the miracle of the resurrection of the widow's son from Nain (Luke 7:11-17), the Pope described Jesus, who sees the woman in front of the dead body of her only son, and “was seized with great compassion”. Pope Francis described this feeling of Christ as “the capacity to suffer with us, to be close to our sufferings and to make them his own”. Jesus understood “what it meant to be a widow at that time”, when mothers were left alone to raise their children they had to rely on the help and charity of others.

The Pope's thoughts turned to other widows in the Bible. To them the Lord shows special “care, a special love”, to the point that they have become “an icon of the Church, because”, he explained, “the Church is in a certain sense a widow: her husband has gone away and she walks through history hoping to find him again, to meet with him. Then she will be his true bride”. But, the Pope warned, “in the meantime the Church is alone”, and the Lord is not visible to her: this is why the Church “has a certain dimension of widowhood”.

The first result of this widowhood is that the Church becomes “brave”. Just as the widow in the Gospel “who went to the corrupt judge to defend her children and eventually won”. “Our Mother Church has that courage, the courage of a woman who knows that her children are hers, and that she must defend them and bring them to meet her husband”.

Courage gives place to the second element: strength, as seen in other widows described in Scripture: among them Naomi, the great-grandmother of David, “who was not afraid to be alone”, and the Maccabean widow with seven children “who, in staying faithful to God, and in not denying the law of God, was martyred by the tyrant”.

“Our Mother Church is this way: a faithful Church knows how to cry. She weeps for her children and prays”. And since the Pope sees “Our Mother Church as a widow who cries”, we must wonder what the Lord says to this mother to comfort her. The answer can be found in the Gospel of Luke when Jesus says: “Do not weep!”. They are words that seem to say: do not cry, because “I am with you, I am accompanying you... this son of yours that was dead but now he lives”. And to the latter, the third figure in the scene of the Gospel, the Lord addresses him warning, “young man, I say to you, rise”. According to the Pontiff these are the very words which the Lord speaks to men and women in the sacrament of reconciliation, “when we are dead because of sin, and we go to ask for his forgiveness”.

Luke ends with the description of the boy who had died and was cured. He rises and begins to speak, as Jesus restores him to his mother. Just as he does with us, the Pope noted, “when He forgives us, he restore life in us”. “Our reconciliation does not end with the dialogue” with the priest who gives us forgiveness, but it is completed “when he brings us back to our mother”. The Pope concluded by saying that “there is no path in life, there is no forgiveness, there is no reconciliation outside of the Mother Church”, and so it is always necessary to “ask the Lord for the grace to trust this mother who defends us, who teaches us and helps us to mature”.

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