Pope Francis' Homily in Iquique
“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee” (Jn 2:11).
These are the final words of the Gospel we just heard, which describes Jesus’ first public appearance: at a party, no more or less. It could not be otherwise, since the Gospel is a constant invitation to joy. From the outset, the angel says to Mary: “Rejoice!” (Lk 1:28). Rejoice, he says to the shepherds; rejoice, he says to Elizabeth, an elderly and barren woman...; rejoice, Jesus says to the thief, for this day you will be with me in paradise (cf. Lk 23:43).
The Gospel message is a wellspring of joy: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11). A joy that is contagious, passing from generation to generation, a joy that we have inherited.
How much you know about this, dear brothers and sisters of northern Chile! How much you know about living your faith and your lives in a festive spirit! I have come as a pilgrim to join you in celebrating this beautiful way of living the faith. Your patronal feasts, your religious dances – which at times go on for a week – your music, your dress, all make this region a shrine of popular piety. Because the party does not remain inside the Church, but you turn the whole town into a party. You know how to celebrate by singing and dancing God’s “fatherhood, providence, constant and loving presence”, and this engenders “interior attitudes rarely observed to the same degree elsewhere: patience, the sign of the cross in daily life, detachment, openness to others, devotion”.
The words of the prophet Isaiah come to life: “The wilderness shall become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field will be deemed a forest” (Is 32:15). This land, surrounded by the driest desert of the world, manages to put on party clothes.
In this festive atmosphere, the Gospel shows us how Mary acts to make that joy continue. She is attentive to everything going on around her; like a good mother, she doesn’t sit still. So she notices, amid in the party and the shared joy, that something is about to happen that might “water it down”. She approaches her Son and tells him simply: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3).
In the same way, Mary passes through our towns, our streets, our squares, our homes and our hospitals. Mary is the Virgin of la Tirana; the Virgin Ayquina in Calama; the Virgin of the Rocks in Arica. She notices all those problems that burden our hearts, then whispers into Jesus’ ear and says: Look, “they have no wine”.
Mary does not stand still. She goes up to the servants and says to them: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Mary, a woman of few but very pointed words, also comes up to each of us and says simply: “Do whatever he tells you”. In this way, she elicits the first miracle of Jesus: to make his friends feel that they too are part of the miracle. Because Christ “came to this world not to perform a task by himself, but with all of us, so as to be the head of a great body, of which we are the living, free and active cells”.
The miracle begins once the servants approach the jars with water for purification. So too, each of us can begin the miracle; what is more, each one of us is invited to be part of the miracle for others.
Brothers and sisters, Iquique is a land of dreams (for so its name means in the Aymara language). It is a land that has given shelter to men and women of different peoples and cultures who had to leave everything behind and set out. Setting out always with the hope of obtaining a better life, yet, as we know, always with their bags packed with fear and uncertainty about the future. Iquique is a region of immigrants, which reminds us of the greatness of men and women, entire families, who, in the face of adversity, refused to give up and set out in search of life. In search of life. They – especially those who had to leave their land for lack of life’s bare necessities – are an icon of the Holy Family, which had to cross deserts to keep on living.
This land is a land of dreams, but let us work to ensure that it also continues to be a land of hospitality. A festive hospitality, for we know very well that there is no Christian joy when doors are closed; there is no Christian joy when others are made to feel unwanted, when there is no room for them in our midst (cf. Lk 16:19-31).
Like Mary at Cana, let us make an effort to be more attentive in our squares and towns, to notice those whose lives have been “watered down”, who have lost – or have been robbed of – reasons for celebrating. And let us not be afraid to raise our voices and say: “They have no wine”.
The cry of the people of God, the cry of the poor, is a kind of prayer; it opens our hearts and teaches us to be attentive. Let us be attentive, then, to all situations of injustice and to new forms of exploitation that risk making so many of our brothers and sisters miss the joy of the party. Let us be attentive to the lack of steady employment, which destroys lives and homes. Let us be attentive to those who profit from the irregular status of many immigrants who don’t know the language or who don’t have their papers “in order”. Let us be attentive to the lack of shelter, land and employment experienced by so many families. And, like Mary, let us say with faith: They have no wine.
Like the servants at the party, let us offer what have, little as it may seem. Like them, let us not be afraid to “lend a hand”. May our solidarity in the commitment for justice be part of the dance or song that we can offer to our Lord. Let us also make the most of the opportunity to learn and make our own the values, the wisdom and the faith that migrants bring with them. Without being closed to those “jars” so full of wisdom and history brought by those who continue to come to these lands. Let us not deprive ourselves of all the good that they have to contribute.
And let us allow Jesus to complete the miracle by turning our communities and our hearts into living signs of his presence, which is joyful and festive because we have experienced that God is with us, because we have learned to make room for him in our midst. A contagious joy and festivity that lead us to exclude one from the proclamation of this Good News.
May Mary, under her different titles in this blessed land of the north, continue to whisper in the ear of Jesus, her Son: “They have no wine”, and may her words continue to find a place in us: “Do whatever he tells you”.