'Why are you downcast...'
Sermon delivered at Jasna Gra on 8 September 2004
Fr Ireneusz Skubis
Fr Ireneusz Skubis
Today we celebrate the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It heralded joy to all the world, for from Mary has risen 'the Sun of justice' - Christ who is our God. We read in the antiphon to the Zechariah's hymn, 'Destroying the curse, He gave blessing and damning death, He bestowed on us life everlasting' (from The Divine Office). We are impressed by these texts, which are full of joy because the Mother of Jesus was born and our salvation is at hand.
Let us try to look at the Christian religion through the prism of its joyous reception. For we must state that contemporary Christians are very often sad people. They cannot cherish the joy faith gives them. They are helpless, depressed, delude by this world and lost in darkness, which overwhelms the contemporary man. Although we are people of faith, although we were baptised, received the First Communion and continuously receive God's graces we have so little hope. The eyes of a contemporary Christian do not show the value of faith, the awareness of the values the Gospel brings.
And after all we know the facts: Christ brought us salvation through his death and resurrection. We have the Good News - wonderful teaching of God. We have sacraments. The Providence of God watches over us all the time. We have direct guardians - Angels and our holy patrons. We have so many reasons to rejoice, to feel secure and safe and to face difficulties with our heads held high. But we grumble about everybody and everything and we come weeping to God and ask him to solve our problems for us. I do not want to say that it is a bad thing to ask God. But the thing is that we should change our attitude, which leads to sadness, discouragement, and to the situation we do not take God into account. When something evil happens, I mean something, which we do not intend, we experience real tragedies. The same happens when a person who is dear to us passes away - our despair overshadows the truth of eternal life, which comes from our faith. There is some paradox. We are Christians and we behave as if God did not exist. Well, there are people who do not believe in God and live their lives without taking into account God's commandments, the Decalogue and their conscience - they betray their wives or husbands, steal, commit evil deeds showing no consideration for people and ignoring God's judgment. Such people belong to the category we should warn Christians against. But we are believers, people of faith. We want to ask those brothers and sisters who are plunged into sorrow the question Jesus asked his disciples who had doubts: 'Why are you downcast?' (cf. Luke 24:17).
Today we celebrate a wonderful feast - the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This day speaks about salvation, which comes to us because Mary will give birth to Jesus - the Incarnated Word who comes to save the world. He comes to show man other perspectives through his teaching, passion and cross. Jesus offers the Heavenly Father his life for our sins. The Bible says, 'For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life' (John 3:16). This is a wonderful intention of merciful God who desires man's salvation, the salvation of each of us.
It is not good that we often lose our motivation of faith that we lose the sight of God that has been given to each of us. It is not good that the greatest joy, which comes from the Good News, does not reach us but it is held somewhere and has no influence on our life, will and heart. There is some idleness in the lives of many Christians, some kind of paresis, some paralysis of faith and the joy, which comes from it. Unfortunately, the enemies of faith manage to instill in us the spirit, which does not allow us to experience God's presence in our lives. The prince of darkness has managed to take the vividness of faith, its joy and strength. And instead of taking advantage of the possibilities Christ brought to all people, we become numb and indifferent.
I remember that several years ago, when the bill concerning mass media was introduced, people argued about the term 'Christian values'. One discussant, who admitted to being a believer, asked, 'As a matter of fact, what are Christian values?' This man did not know that those values always had to be in the conscience of a believer, that a Christian touched them with his soul, conscience, culture, that they referred to his perception of the whole life. Christian values are, so to speak, in the centre of human heart and make the one who professes them honest, good, generous and at the same time joyous, confident and hopeful. Living a life of faith makes us have wider horizons, which allow us to look differently at the reality of our lives.
The blockage of inner life, the life of prayer, causes us to think about God as someone who is behind clouds, someone who is very far away from us. But God is so close! He is our Father! He is Mercy! He is our Saviour! This is very important to every Christian.
The Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the feast day of the Sowing Mother of God - as we call it in Poland - refers to the evangelical mission of the Church. As Christians we are to sow the seed of God. But first we ourselves must turn our hearts and all our spiritual life to God. Therefore, today's feast is some great challenge for Christians, for believers - and perhaps for those who doubt - so that our faith and love for God may brighten up and consequently, our life of prayer intensifies and our knees bend; so that we can look forward to the future differently, in a new way. These truths constitute the core of the message of the Church. Today the Church is so often attacked! Satan wants to destroy her, take believers their confidence in her. How many attacks on the Church do we witness, the attacks by the mass media? We should not let anyone take our confidence in the Church. We remember the 'Solidarity' times when people had great confidence in the Church and her shepherds. Then we were strong. The Church always speaks up for man. After the events in Russia, when other diplomats remained silent and shook their hands, the Church, in the person of Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, asked for explanation for the international community. Because of the number of the murdered people that event could not be an internal matter of one country. The world must know why this happened. The Church speaks up for each man, including a Muslim. Everyone is a child of God and has the right to life of dignity.
Brothers and Sisters, let us remember that our strength is our adherence to the Church and our confidence in her. The Light is in the Church, so there is warmth, joy and life. During one of his last pilgrimages John Paul II spoke strongly here, at Jasna Gra, 'Christ does not exist without his Church and the Church does not exist without Christ'. Only then can we say we know Christ if we understand the mission of his Church.
We are in a good situation because the Holy Father John Paul II is our brother. We do trust him. Let us reflect on his words. For in a short time we may lose the support.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us think of the joy flowing from faith, the joy that is in the truths of faith, in the Gospel, in everything what the Church brings in her sacraments and liturgy. We must not let anyone destroy us or drown in sorrow and darkness. True faith bears joy, gives sense to life and leads to what is good and beautiful. And let us be aware that God's Providence is above everything, that there is Good God who gave us Mother, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. Let her deepen in us the joy of faith and confidence in God.