“God always surprises us, like the new wine in the Gospel we have just heard. God always saves the best for us,” Pope Francis said at a Mass July 24, after he had venerated the shrine’s image of Our Lady.
“But he asks us to let ourselves be surprised by his love, to accept his surprises. Let us trust God.”
Pope Francis came to Aparecida, “the house of the Mother of every Brazilian,” about 160 miles west of Rio de Janeiro, earlier today by helicopter.
He had come to Aparecida to “place at her feet the life of the people of Latin America.”
Pope Francis also remembered that “it is from Mary that the Church learns true discipleship,” adding, “That is why the Church always goes out on mission in the footsteps of Mary.”
He said, “I too come to knock on the door of the house of Mary … that she may help all of us, pastors of God’s people, parents and educators, to pass on to our young people the values that can help them build a nation and a world which are more just, united and fraternal.”
It was in this context that he introduced three “attitudes” of the Christian life: hopefulness, an openness to being surprised by God and living in joy.
Pope Francis said that, while there are “many difficulties” in each person’s life, “God never allows us to be overwhelmed by them.”
“Let us never lose hope,” he urged. Though there are “moments of discouragement” as we try to evangelize or “embody our faith as parents within the family,” he encouraged the faithful to “always know in your heart that God is by your side.”
God is the object of our hope, taught the Bishop of Rome, and he is “the one with the upper hand” in the face of evil and the devil.
Everyone, he said, “to some extent … feels attracted” to the idols of “money, success, power, pleasure,” echoing the three temptations — riches, honor and pride — considered by St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.
“Often, a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols,” Pope Francis said.
“Dear brothers and sisters, let us be lights of hope,” he said. “Let us encourage the generosity which is typical of the young and help them to work actively in building a better world.”
Youth do not solely need material things, but, “above all, they need to have held up to them those non-material values which are the spiritual heart of a people … spirituality, generosity, solidarity, perseverance, fraternity, joy.”
This attitude of hope leads to an openness to being surprised by God, he said.
“Anyone who is a man or a woman of hope — the great hope that faith gives us — knows that, even in the midst of difficulties, God acts, and he surprises us.”
The Pope recalled the founding of the Aparecida shrine, which was erected after three fisherman discovered in the area an image of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, after a day of catching no fish.
“Whoever would have thought that the site of a fruitless fishing expedition would become the place where all Brazilians can feel that they are children of one Mother,” he said.
Yet this shows that God is always other, always greater, and “God always surprises us … always saves the best for us.”
Being open to the surprise, the utter otherness of God, allows “the wine of joy, the wine of hope” never to run out in the Christian life.