Pope Francis welcomed a group of religious of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, commonly known as Mercedarians, on Saturday on the occasion of their General Chapter.
The Order was established in the XIII century in Barcelona by Peter Nolasco , a Spanish merchant, for the redemption of Christian captives. With over seven hundred members in twenty-two countries, the Friars have continued the same redemptive spirit of their founder.
In his address, the Holy Father dwelled on the motto chosen for the Chapter “Do whatever He tells you!” (Jn, 2.5), drawn from the Gospel of Jonn on the Wedding at Cana, where Jesus performed the water-into-wine miracle.
Listening to God
He remarked that the choice is particularly significant as it implies the idea of service which is at the core of religious life and calls attention to the importance of listening to God.
He noted that the current world situation can be compared to that described by John’s Gospel when Mary says to Jesus: ‘They have no more wine’: “Many realities that we can see today in the world, in the Church, speak to us of this shortage, of the lack of hope, motivation, and solutions”, he said.
“Faced with this, the Virgin challenges you to listen”, Pope Francis stressed. But, “what should we listen to?”, he asked. Recalling the episode of the Wedding at Cana, he said that Jesus “proposes something that certainly no servant would have thought of”: to fill the jars for purification with water.
Pope Francis, therefore, insisted on the importance of listening to God’s voice: “You don’t go to the General Chapter to say the right thing”, but “to listen to God with simplicity, gratitude and abandoning yourself to Him”, he said.
What the Miracle at the Wedding of Cana tells us
He went on to stress that the jars for purification in the Wedding of Cana invite “us to return to our first love, to the source, to recover the innocent and hopeful attitude of our first years of consecrated life. The jars that have been emptied must be filled again with the same joy with which they were filled before the banquet began”, he said.
“The Lord asks us to start again every day, in every project. Do not get tired, do not be discouraged”.”
Reminding that the vocation of the Church is to evangelize, Pope Francis insisted on the need “to welcome the surprise that Jesus brings us”, to “listen to Mary”, to be consumed by “concrete and simple service”.
The challenge of modern slavery
We must learn how to be like Mary, “next to Christ at the foot of the Cross, in the suffering flesh of the poor and the prisoner”, Pope Francis concluded calling attention to the many captives of our time, who are victims of modern forms of slavery spreading inidiously in our societies.
“Probably, we can say that there are more slaves today than at the time you were founded. And this must be a challenge for you. They are disguised, unknown, hidden, but they are many, even in big cities like Rome, London, Paris. Look for them and ask the Lord: what do I do?”