People sometimes wonder whether God has a sense of humour.
I need only take a long look at myself to conclude that he must have.
I think we might say the same for Our Lady. Over the centuries when the Mother of God has appeared to chosen individuals she seems to chose the most unlikely and inaccessible places. The High Pyrenees being one of them. She also chooses very unlikely individuals.
In Bernadette she chose a young peasant girl, semi literate, living with her family in abject poverty in the town jail. Why on earth would you start a spiritual revolution in a remote part of Southwest France, and why choose a girl like Bernadette?
God's ways can seem very strange indeed, and Mary’s.
And yet there is a pattern in all this. Mary herself was a young girl living in the equally obscure village of Nazareth.
"Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" they asked.
Mary herself explains God's choice.
"He has put down the mighty from their seats and has exalted the lowly."
Jesus himself came into the world being born in the outhouse of an inn because there was no room in the inn itself.
His early years are spent as a homeless Refugee in Egypt.
God chooses to identify himself with the poor and the outcast.
In his adult life Jesus associates with people on the fringes of society, publicans, prostitutes and tax collectors. He eats and drinks with sinners. By reaching out in love to those whom society has rejected he at once gives them hope, and invites them to conversion.
Pope Francis reflects this approach of Jesus when he invites us to go out to the peripheries to bring the Good News, the Joy of the Gospel to others. He is calling on the whole Church to recognise that we are not here for ourselves but to make Christ present for others.
Here at the Grotto we sense the presence of Mary.
Here today, She says to us what she said at Cana.
"Do whatever he tells you".
And He is telling us to go back home to the Diocese, and think about how we might touch those on the peripheries of our society.
Who are the people left out in our churches? Who are the ones we never see, the ones who are forgotten? Who are the ones who feel unwanted and unwelcome in our churches? We ourselves may well be entirely open and anxious to welcome others, but do they know that? Do they feel excluded?
These are questions to be pondered. How can we find ways to reach those who for whatever reason feel themselves to be unwanted? This is our mission. It is a challenge especially for the young.
We are blessed with many wonderfully generous young people.
I want to say to you today that our Lady has brought you here to Lourdes for a purpose. Make time here to be still and quiet and listen to the voice of God. Is he asking you to take a leading role in this mission to those on the peripheries as a priest or religious?
Your very youth can be just what God wants to use.
Please think about it.
If God asks you to do something, be like Mary and say yes.
In the coming years the Church will change greatly, but the more it changes the more it will remain the same. We will not change by going with the flow, by conforming to the world around us, but by a radical following of the Gospel. "Do whatever he tells you".
Stake everything on Jesus. He will never let you down; God is never outdone in generosity; and you will know the joy of mission, the joy of the Gospel.
Father Tony Churchill