On Tuesday, 15 August, Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, the Pope invited the faithful who had gathered for the Angelus in Saint Peter’s Square to pray “for peace in Ukraine and in all regions”. There are so “many areas of the world afflicted by war”, he stressed. “But let us not be discouraged”, the Pope said. “Let us continue to hope and pray, for it is God, it is he who guides history”. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s reflection.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, we contemplate her who was taken up body and soul to the glory of Heaven. Today’s Gospel also presents her to us as she goes up, this time “into the hill country” (Lk 1:39). And why does she go up there? To help her cousin Elizabeth, and there she proclaims the joyful canticle of the Magnificat. Mary goes up and the Word of God reveals to us what characterizes her as she is lifted: service to neighbour and praise to God. Both of these things: Mary is the woman of service to neighbour, and Mary is the woman who praises God. The evangelist Luke, moreover, narrates Jesus’ own life as an ascent towards Jerusalem, the place of his self-giving on the cross; and he also describes Mary’s journey in the same way. Jesus and Mary, in short, travel the same road: two lives that ascend, glorifying God and serving their brothers and sisters. Jesus as the Redeemer, who gives his life for us, for our justification; Mary as the servant who goes to serve: two lives that conquer death and rise; two lives whose secrets are service and praise. Let us reflect a moment on these two aspects: service and praise.
Service. It is when we stoop to serve our brothers and sisters that we rise. It is love that elevates life. We go to serve our brothers and sisters and with this service, we “rise”. But to serve is not easy: Our Lady, who had just conceived, travels almost 150 kilometres from Nazareth to reach Elizabeth’s house. To help is costly, for all of us! We always experience this in the fatigue, the patience and concerns that taking care of others entails. Let us think, for example, of the kilometres that many people travel every day to and from work, and the many tasks they perform for others; think of the sacrifices of time and sleep in caring for a newborn or an elderly person; the effort in serving those who have nothing to offer in return, in the Church and also in volunteer work. I admire volunteer work. It is tiring, but it is going upwards, it is attaining Heaven! This is true service.
But service risks being fruitless without praise to God. Indeed, when Mary enters the home of her cousin, she praises the Lord. She does not talk about her weariness from the journey, but rather a song of jubilation springs from her heart. Because those who love God know how to praise. And today’s Gospel shows us “a cascade of praise: the child who leaps with joy in Elizabeth’s womb (cf. Lk 1:44); Elizabeth who utters words of blessing and “the first beatitude”: “Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45); and everything culminates in Mary, who proclaims the Magnificat (cf. Lk 1:46-55). Praise increases joy. Praise is like a ladder: it leads hearts upwards. Praise raises souls and defeats the temptation to give up. Have you seen how boring people, those who live off gossip, are incapable of giving praise? Ask yourselves: am I capable of giving praise? How good it is to praise God every day, and others too! How good it is to live in gratitude and blessing instead of regrets and complaints, to lift up our gaze instead of having a long face! Complaints: there are people who complain every day. But see that God is near you, see that he has created you, see the things he has given you. Praise, praise! And this is spiritual health.
Service and praise. Let us try to ask ourselves: do I complete my work and daily tasks with a spirit of service, or with selfishness? Do I devote myself to someone freely, without seeking immediate advantages? In short, do I make service the “springboard” of my life? And thinking about praise: do I, like Mary, exult in God (cf. Lk 1:47)? Do I pray, blessing the Lord? And, after praising him, do I spread his joy among the people I meet? Each one of you, try to answer these questions.
May our Mother, assumed into Heaven, help us to rise ever higher each day through service and praise.
After the Angelus the Pope continued:
Dear brothers and sisters, I heartily greet all of you present here, Romans and pilgrims from various countries. In particular, I greet the young people from the diocese of Verona, with best wishes for their summer experience in Rome.
Today, we entrust to Mary assumed into Heaven our supplication for peace in Ukraine and in all war-torn regions: there are so many of them, unfortunately. The clamour of weapons drowns out attempts at dialogue; the law of force prevails over the force of law. But let us not be discouraged, let us continue to hope and to pray, because it is God, it is he who guides history. May he listen to us!
And today, the day of Our Lady, I greet the young people of the Immaculata! I wish you all a good feast day. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch, and arrivederci!