My brothers and sisters it is a tremendous privilege to be present in this marvellous Basilica of St Mary Major. It brings us together, and brings together also Jesus, Son of God and Saviour, and His mother Mary, Our Lady, and mother of the Church. Mary has already played significant roles in all of our lives. I grew up in Stanthorpe in the 1940s, taught by the Sisters of Mercy who constantly encouraged me to pray for a vocation to priesthood. I tried to do so, but changed my mind when I thought the Air Force was a more interesting career, only to realise that the Sisters had kept on praying for me through the power of Mary, mother of Jesus. For me Mary seemed like a furnace of prayer and I turned to her whenever I needed support for myself, or needed support assist others who asked for my prayers.
In August I travelled with a group of young people on our way to Spain. In Bethlehem, Egypt and most significantly Nazareth, then later in Jerusalem, we walked in the footsteps of Jesus and Mary, conscious of the suffering of Jesus and the triumph of His resurrection. I think constantly of the relationship of Jesus and Mary, what Mary thought of her remarkable Son, how deeply she understood His role and vision, and how sadly she grasped the impact of His suffering and death, all of which was joyously celebrated by His resurrection. But above all Mary realised that Jesus had given her and all people a new world and has made us all new people. How powerfully Mary must have contributed to the shaping of the Apostles who had fled from the suffering and death of Jesus. At Pentecost the coming of the Holy Spirit must have deepened her understanding as she changed the lives of the Apostles and followers for the mission that lay ahead. One of the high points of our pilgrimage in Israel was visiting the place of the wedding feast of Cana when Mary quickened the public life of her Son by asking Him for miracles, as she encouraged the servants to “Do whatever He tells you”. The fact that Jesus followed her words is an indication of her closeness to Him.
Today in this precious Basilica we must meet first of all Jesus, the Son of Mary, who at the Last Supper gave Himself to us, that He repeated for us time and time again – on the open hillsides of Australia, in corrugated iron sheds on the plains, and in the vast spaces where Mass is celebrated. In all such places we are reminded of the love of Jesus and the closeness of Mary, whose presence we are reminded of in her statues and names on the Churches. Mary and Jesus are inseparable. At times it is so easy to forget Mary and the power she gives us through prayer. Today as we meet Jesus in this magnificent gift of Eucharist let us ask Jesus to bless our great South Land of the Holy Spirit.
Today the gospel of Luke reminds us of the suffering of Mary when her Son was attacked furiously by the Scribes and Pharisees only to be supported by God’s Holy Spirit in His resurrection. Even before Paul the Apostle spoke about God, Mary knew the love of her Son when Paul said “God is just and He justifies anyone who believes in Jesus”. Mary reminds us always of her magnificent Son and the magnificent world He gave us. How lucky we are.