Saint Bede the Venerable

25 May 2009

They say that you don’t decide to come to Lourdes of your own will; rather it is Our Lady who calls you to be here. In other words, you never come to Lourdes by accident, even if for some of us it might look like that. If you have come to Lourdes it is for a special reason, there is a purpose behind it all.

And many of us who have been to Lourdes before end our pilgrimage by praying at the Statue of the Crowned Virgin that she will call us back again in the future, next year or at least sometime in the future. I suppose it is carrying on the logic that it is Mary who calls us to be here in the first place.

photo of sick pilgrims near the Grotto

As we prepared to come here I am sure that lots of people gave us intentions to bring to the Grotto on their behalf. We have our own personal intentions, our own reasons for coming, also. We have brought many people and situations in our hearts with us on our pilgrimage. Perhaps there is sickness in our own lives, maybe someone close to us is suffering in some way or other and we are bringing that intention with us. Perhaps it is a home situation, a relationship, a husband, wife, son or daughter, a friend and we want to offer that situation to the Lord through the intercession of our Blessed Lady here at Lourdes. Perhaps it is a spiritual matter, to do with our faith. Maybe we feel that it is time to change our lives in some way – the struggle with sin and evil in our lives – well, that’s something that all of us to a greater or lesser degree are engaged in.

photo of young people

No matter who we are, we come here bringing something with us. And the important thing is that we should place it before the Lord, we should offer it to the Lord, we should let go of it and give it over to the Lord through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes. And today is the day, this is the moment. When we have finished this sermon, let’s just have a few seconds silence, and focus on whatever or whoever it is we have brought to Lourdes. Imagine that this situation, this person, this prayer, this intention is in your hands. In your heart, in your mind, in your spirit, as the bread and the wine are offered on the altar, as the pattern and the chalice are lifted, place your gift, that which you have brought with you onto the pattern with the bread, into the chalice with the wine and offer them to the Lord.

Blessed are you Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread/wine to offer which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become the bread/cup of life.

photo of Bishop giving Communion

Offer not only what you have brought, but also what everyone else here has brought with them, too. Let the bread and the wine become the symbol of everything that needs healing, everything that needs forgiving, everything that needs re-fashioning, everything that needs renewing in your life and the lives of your loved ones. Leave all that you have brought with you on this altar and listen as the Holy Spirit is called down upon the bread and the wine and become the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Renew your faith in the ability of the Spirit to bring about this miraculous change. At the same time, renew your faith in the ability and power of the Spirit to heal, forgive, refashion and renew our lives and the lives of all those we love in ways beyond all our imagining.

Offer your gifts with faith and allow the Holy Spirit to work within you. This is what Mary did when the Angel Gabriel came to ask her to be the Mother of the Word of God, and as a result all generations still call her blessed.

photo of pilgrims

Bernadette did the same; she offered herself to the will of God and service in her community. Even her dying words seal her lifetime of offering her small, humble gift of self. She said just half an hour before she died, “Oh my God! I love you with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my strength.” And from this unknown, humble girl so many graces and blessings have come, so many sinners converted to the Lord, so many now walking in the way of the gospel.

St Bede and all the saints dear to each of us offered themselves, giving to God all that they had and from those small offerings God blesses many through the generations.

photo of Brancardiers

Offer yourselves and your gifts, all that you have brought. You might not think they are good things to offer him, or fitting gifts even. Give him what you have, give him what you are and allow the Spirit to work in and through you. Let your “Blessed be God forever” be a resounding proclamation of your faith in the ability and the power of the Spirit to renew the face of the earth and to renew our lives and the lives of all our loved ones, too.

Blessed be God forever.