.- Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the people of Cuba to imitate Mary in having an “active and fruitful” faith which leads to authentic freedom by embracing God’s will despite hardships.
“It is worth the effort,” the Pope said, “to devote your entire life to Christ, to grow in his friendship each day and to feel called to proclaim the beauty and the goodness of his life to every person.”
In honor of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, Pope Benedict celebrated Mass in Antonio Maceo Revolution Square on the evening of March 26 for an estimated crowd of 250,000.
He said that his first Mass in Cuba takes on a “special luster” because it falls not only in the Jubilee Year commemorating the statue’s discovery, but also on the feast of the Annunciation, celebrated by the universal Church.
He explained that he was “deeply touched” to hear of the Cuban people’s fervent and dedicated preparation for the Marian jubilee.
Mary is “central” to the mystery of the Incarnation, he said in his homily.
The Pope observed that when believers look at Mary, they are “filled with wonder, gratitude and love at seeing how our God, coming into the world, wished to depend upon the free consent of one of his creatures.”
“It is touching to see how God not only respects human freedom: he almost seems to require it,” he said.
The “yes” of both Mary and Christ reveals that it is only through faithful obedience to God’s will that we arrive at “true liberty” and “authentic redemption,” finding “our genuine identity” as the fruit of God’s infinite love, he explained.
Mary is “the exemplar and model of the Church,” which is also called to bring Christ’s saving presence to the world, the Pope said.
With the Incarnation of Jesus, God has taken on “our human reality in most concrete and tangible way,” he said, adding that “when God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man, and frustrates creation’s true vocation to be a space for the covenant.”
Pope Benedict encouraged the Cuban faithful to continue in their bold, sacrificial efforts to present the Church’s “true face as a place in which God draws near and encounters humanity” in the concrete circumstances in which they live.
As Easter approaches, he said, Christ’s disciples must follow him “without fear or doubts on his journey to the Cross.”
He urged the people to accept opposition and affliction “with patience and faith,” knowing that the Resurrection has overcome evil and the Lord will not fail to bless generous commitment to him with “abundant fruits.”
The Incarnation also “shows us the incomparable dignity of every human life” and highlights the importance of family, the Holy Father said, explaining that from the very beginning, God’s plan called the family – founded on matrimony – is “the fundamental cell of society and an authentic domestic church.”
He called on married couples in Cuba to be “a real and visible sign of the love of Christ for the Church.”
“Cuba needs the witness of your fidelity, your unity, your capacity to welcome human life, especially that of the weakest and most needy,” he said.
Pope Benedict appealed to the Cuban people to reinvigorate their faith so that they “may live in Christ and for Christ.”
He encouraged them to “strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God.”