Pope Francis says " We too...are in fact called to make people feel the gaze of Jesus and, at the same time, to bring the gaze of our brothers to Jesus."

in MARSEILLE - for the conclusion of the “Rencontres Méditerranéennes”
[22 - 23 SEPTEMBER 2023]
Basilica of “Notre Dame de la Garde” (Marseille) - Friday, September 22, 2023
Dear brothers and sisters, bon après-midi!
I am happy to begin my visit by sharing this moment of prayer with you. I thank Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline for the words of welcome and greeting H.E. Monsignor Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, the brother Bishops, the Father Rectors and all of you, priests, deacons and seminarians, consecrated men and women who work in this archdiocese with generosity and commitment to build a civilization of encounter with God and with others . Thank you for your presence and your service, and thank you for your prayers!

Once in Marseille, I joined the greats: Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus, Charles de Foucauld, John Paul II and many others who came here as pilgrims to entrust themselves to Notre Dame de la Garde. Let us place under its mantle the fruits of the Mediterranean Meetings, together with the expectations and hopes of your hearts.
In the biblical reading, the prophet Zephaniah exhorted us to joy and trust, remembering that the Lord our God is not far away, he is here, near us, to save us (see 3:17). It is a message that refers, in a certain sense, to the history of this Basilica and what it represents. In fact, it was not founded in memory of a miracle or a particular apparition, but simply because, since the 13th century, the holy People of God have sought and found here, on the hill of La Garde, the presence of the Lord through the eyes of his Holy Mother. That is why for centuries the people of Marseille - especially those who sail on the waves of the Mediterranean - have gone up there to pray. It was the faithful Holy People of God who – I use the word – “anointed” this sanctuary, this place of prayer. Holy People of God who, as the Council says, are infallible in believing.
Even today, for everyone, the Bonne Mère is the protagonist of a very tender "crossing of glances": on the one hand that of Jesus, who she always points to us and whose love reflects in her eyes - the most authentic gesture of the Madonna is: " Do what He tells you", indicating Jesus - on the other those of many men and women of all ages and conditions, whom she collects and brings to God, as we recalled at the beginning of this prayer, placing a candle at his feet switched on. Here, in the crossroads of peoples that is Marseille, it is precisely on this intersection of gazes that I would like to reflect with you, because it seems to me that the Marian dimension of our ministry is well expressed in it. We too, priests, consecrated persons, deacons, are in fact called to make people feel the gaze of Jesus and, at the same time, to bring the gaze of our brothers to Jesus. An exchange of glances. In the first case we are instruments of mercy, in the second instruments of intercession.
First look: that of Jesus caressing the man. It is a look that goes from top to bottom, but not to judge, but to lift up those who are down. It is a look full of tenderness, which shines through Maria's eyes. And we, called to convey this gaze, are required to lower ourselves, to feel compassion - I underline this word: compassion. Let us not forget that God's style is that of closeness, compassion and tenderness - to make our own "the patient and encouraging benevolence of the Good Shepherd, who does not scold the lost sheep, but carries it on his shoulders and celebrates its return to the fold (see Luke 15:4-7)" (Congregation for the Clergy, Directory for the ministry and life of priests, 41). I like to think that the Lord does not know how to point his finger to judge, but he knows how to hold out his hand to lift up.
Brothers, sisters, let us learn from this look, let us not let a day pass without remembering when we received it upon us, and let us make it ours, to be men and women of compassion. Closeness, compassion, tenderness. We do not forget. Being compassionate means being close and tender. Let us open the doors of churches and rectories, but above all those of the heart, to show the face of our Lord through our meekness, kindness and hospitality. Whoever approaches you does not find distances and judgments, they find the testimony of a humble joy, more fruitful than any ostentatious ability. May the wounded of life find a safe haven, a welcome in your gaze, an encouragement in your embrace, a caress in your hands, capable of drying tears. Even in the many occupations of every day, please do not let the warmth of God's paternal and maternal gaze fail. And to the priests, please: in the Sacrament of Penance always forgive, forgive! Be generous as God is generous with us. Forgive! And with God's forgiveness, many paths in life open up. And this is beautiful to do by dispensing his forgiveness with generosity, always, always, to loosen, through grace, men from the chains of sin and free them from blocks, remorse, resentment and fears against which alone they cannot prevail. It is beautiful to rediscover with amazement, at any age, the joy of illuminating lives, in happy and sad moments, with the Sacraments, and of transmitting, in the name of God, unexpected hopes: his closeness that consoles, his compassion that heals , his tenderness that moves. Closeness, compassion, tenderness. Be close to everyone, especially the most fragile and the less fortunate, and may those who suffer never lack your attentive and discreet closeness. Thus, in them but also in you, the faith that animates the present, the hope that opens to the future and the charity that lasts forever will grow. Here is the first movement: bringing the gaze of Jesus to our brothers. There is only one situation in life in which it is legitimate to look down on a person: it is when we try to take them by the hand to lift them up. In other situations it is a sin of pride. Look at the people who are below and who with their hand - consciously or unconsciously - ask you to lift them up. Take them by the hand and lift them up: it is a very beautiful gesture, it is a gesture that cannot be done without tenderness.
And then there is the second gaze: that of the men and women who turn to Jesus. Like Mary, who in Cana grasped and brought before the Lord the concerns of two young spouses (see John 2:3), you too you are called to be an interceding voice for others - men and women for others - (see Rom 8:34). Then the recitation of the Breviary, the daily meditation on the Word, the Rosary and any other prayer, I especially recommend that of adoration. We have lost a little the sense of adoration, we must regain it, I recommend this to you. All these prayers will be crowded on the faces of those who Providence puts in your path. You will carry with you their eyes, their voices, their questions: on the Eucharistic Table, in front of the Tabernacle or in the silence of your room, where the Father sees (see Mt 6:6). You will faithfully echo them, as intercessors, as "angels on earth", messengers who bring everything "before the glory of the Lord" (Tb 12,12).
And I would like to summarize this brief meditation by calling your attention to three images of Mary that are venerated in this Basilica. The first is the large image that stands on top of her, which represents her holding the blessing Child Jesus: here, like Mary we bring the blessing and peace of Jesus everywhere, in every family and in every heart. Sow peace! It is the look of mercy. The second image is found below us, in the Crypt: it is the Vierge au bouquet, a gift from a generous layman. She also carries the Baby Jesus on one arm, and she shows him to us, but in the other hand, instead of the scepter, she holds a bouquet of flowers. She makes us think about how Mary, model of the Church, while presenting her Son to us, also presents us to Him, like a bouquet of flowers in which each person is unique, beautiful and precious in the eyes of the Father. It is the gaze of intercession. This is very important: intercession. The first was the gaze of mercy of the Madonna, this is the gaze of intercession. Finally, the third image is the one we see here in the center, on the altar, which is striking for the splendor it radiates. We too, dear brothers and sisters, become a living Gospel to the extent that we give it, coming out of ourselves, reflecting its light and beauty with a humble, joyful life, full of apostolic zeal. May the many missionaries who have left this high place to announce the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the world be an incentive in this.
Dear ones, let us bring the gaze of God to our brothers, let us bring the thirst of our brothers to God, let us spread the joy of the Gospel. This is our life and it is incredibly beautiful, despite the hardships and falls, even our sins. Let us pray together to the Madonna, that she accompany us, that she guards us. And you, please, pray for me.