Three months away from the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis gave a tribute to the family that was both realistic and deeply moving. At Mass in Guayaquil, before a million people, he spoke about the mysterious Gospel account of the wedding at Cana, inspired by the attentiveness of Mary, Jesus' mother, who during the marriage feast realizes the need for wine. In this way he explained the reason for his insistence, from the start of his pontificate, on the crucial topic of the family, a subject which touches us all, not just believers.
The wedding at Cana happens in every generation, helping “our hearts find rest in strong love, fruitful love and joyful love”. Wine is a sign of happiness, love and plenty: “How many of our adolescents and young people sense that these is no longer any of that wine to be found in their homes? How many women, sad and lonely, wonder when love left, when it slipped away from their lives? How many elderly people feel left out of family celebrations, cast aside and longing each day for a little love, from their sons and daughters, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren?”, the Pope asked deeply moved.
And then there is unemployment, illness, the “difficult situations which our families around the world may experience”. This – a current expression of John's original narrative – explains the Pope's concern for the theme he entrusted to the Synod, and with unprecedented interest of Catholic communities around the world. In the Gospel it is up to Mary to addresses her son, to pray him, and to teach us how to “put our families in God’s hands”, so that “our concerns are also God’s concerns”.
Too often the family is not the place we would like it to be. There is one detail in the account of the wedding at Cana that makes us think, Pope Francis observed: the new wine came from water jars used for ablutions. Thus, the upcoming Synod must find “solutions and help to the many difficult and significant challenges facing families today”, and for this intention the Pope asked for prayers, “that Christ can take even what might seem to us impure, like the water in the jars scandalizing or threatening us,” and transform it “into a miracle”. The family today needs this miracle, he exclaimed amid cheers and applause from the crowd.
But there is a further detail about the Gospel, Pope Francis point out, winding his homily to a close: those at the feast went on to enjoy the finest of wines. “And this is the good news: the finest wines are yet to be tasted; for families, the richest, deepest and most beautiful things are yet to come”, he said, despite all the odds. He asked the faithful to repeat this to themselves, anyone who feels hopelessly lost: “Have patience, hope, and follow Mary’s example, pray, open your heart,” because “God always seeks out the peripheries, those who have run out of wine”.
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