Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 66:2-3,5,6,8; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21.
** Gospel Reading
The shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.
When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception. This time I must wish you God’s peace more and more; it is the feast of peace.
In 1916, during the second World War, the Servant of God Joseph De Piro accompanied a group of Maltese faithful on a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha. On this occasion he encouraged the faithful to pray for peace. Four years later, on 21st March 1920, De Piro returned to Mellieha with another group to thank Mary for the termination of War.
Oh! If only we could remove the veil that hinders us from seeing Mary, our Mother! We would see happiness written on her face as she welcomes us after this pilgrimage in her honor, during which we prayed to her to intercede with her Divine Son and give us peace. We would hear her say: “Qui timetis Dominum sperate in illum et veniet vobis misericordiam” (“You who fear the Lord, hope in Him and you will find mercy.”) (Eccl.2,9)
Yes, it was the holy fear of God that has gathered us here together; faced with his scourges we came into this ancient and devout Sanctuary to pray to the Queen of peace so that, through her intercession, they are put away.
Faced with these ruins of our times, a spontaneous question arises: Why? Why do we have this cruel and inhumane war that is disrupting whole nations? The root of such evil is one: the nations have put aside the fear of God, they moved away from his laws and they forgot the commandment of love. Yes, society has waged war against God: at all levels God has been reduced to a hate symbol. All over the world, instead of praise and blessings, God is addressed through the diabolic language of blasphemy, ‘I will not serve’. This language is found on the lips of young and old men, children and even women. God cannot remain passive in front of this. Were it not for his mercy and goodness, the earth with all its wickedness would have already been reduced to ashes. If, however, we fear God, we have a reason to have hope, as Mary tells us; her mercy comes down to console us. Yes, God’s terrible hand is stopped by the continuous atonement of the souls that fear God. Above all, it is her Divine Son who, annihilated and hidden in the Most Blessed Sacrament, builds a protective armor of salvation around the world and puts on hold all major punishments.
Yes, Jesus, it is you who saves us from Divine Justice which is angry because of our sins. You immolate yourself for us on all the altars of the earth, and remain hidden in millions of tabernacles for our protection and defense! Therefore, dear Jesus, to atone for many others, we would like to offer you this Holy Communion. We offer you all the Communions received on the battle grounds and in the trenches by the moribund and those preparing for battle. We offer you the vows and the merits of so many grateful souls. We offer you the toils of those Apostles that preach your doctrine in far away countries. We offer you the sacrifices and the hardships of the many who live in cloisters, and whose innocent body is subjected to the roughest penances for the sins of the world. In a special way we offer you the weariness and the hardships of all those that at this very moment are engaged in battle. We ask you, Oh Queen of peace, to present this our offer to the throne of the Most High, in order to move him to have compassion for us and this huge calamity might stop and peace once again shines among us.
Yes, dear Mary our Mother: remember that all graces pass through your hands. Please, Mary, turn your gaze upon poor Europe that is being tried by the greatest misfortune: for two years it has been torn by a most terrible war the likes of which was never recorded in history. Have pity and mercy for it. Make sure that the heart of your Divine Son Jesus is appeased by the holocaust of the many young lives lost on the battle grounds. Make sure it is appeased by the copious blood that is staining the ground. Yes, Mary: you who once cried for your only son, look at the tears that many mothers are shedding from their eyes, together with those of many sisters, wives and innocent children. Please Mary, stop this horrific catastrophe; we expect this grace from you, Oh Queen of Peace, intercede and pray for us.
About four years ago war was doing a complete upheaval of whole nations and sowing all kinds of ruins. Mothers, sisters, wives and innocent children wept their beloved fighting on the battle field or threatened by the sea. We prayed, and with our hearts full of the fear of God, we saw the consoling star that would have soothed our afflictions.
Yes, we saw Mary as if on a throne in the clouds. She had the royal crown on her head, and she carried her Divine Son on her arms. She fixed her gaze upon us and seeing the sweet smile that illuminated her face, we understood that she acknowledged us as her children. Our Lady of Mellieha. She will be the one to console us. This was our thought: let us go to our mother, the Virgin of Mellieha!
This thought was followed by action: on the morn of February 16, 1916, we came to this devout sanctuary from all parts of the island to be at the feet of Mary. No one will ever forget the sweet consolation that invaded our souls on that day. She was the safe Ark, and we were sure that our prayers will be heard, and indeed they were. This is exactly what made us return to this altar of our tender mother Mary. Yes, we disdain the nine lepers of the Gospel; we want to imitate the Samaritan: like him we came back to sing a hymn of praise, of gratitude and thanksgiving.
Yes, Mary, publicly in the presence of this your people who continuously witness your graces, we want to thank you with the singing of the Te Deum. Yes, we thank you God; may the praise be yours always and everywhere. May you be glorified always for having given us such a tender and loving Mother, who is always so prompt to wipe our tears.
(Translated by Fr Conrad Sciberras mssp).