The Visitation – Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. John “leaps” in her womb and the sound of Mary approaching. Elizabeth says Mary is “…blessed among all women…” The first thing I think about is the fellowship among women. Most women NEED other women to talk to, (especially when they are pregnant, lol).
How similar are we to Mary and Elizabeth? Here are two human beings, just like we are, who fill their days and conversation with Love for God. Can we imagine today, having a conversation with friends, saying “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb?” Many women think pregnancy is a curse. We worry about this and that, and sometimes forget the amazing blessing the new human life growing inside our womb is. God gave us the power to create new human life. This is His power to bring life into the world. What a gift! Our culture thinks we should control when and how we will get pregnant. Often when we make plans God laughs and blesses us with surprises. We can have the joy God wants to give us if we open ourselves to His Divine guidance.
Mary and Elizabeth clearly lived this way. They were true “sisters in Christ.” They are an example of a beautiful friendship.
When I pray the second Joyful Mystery, I have in my mind this prayer: “Lord, may I see You in everyone I meet today, and may they never have any doubt that You are in me.”
For what it’s worth, I wrote most of this in 2003. I am editing it today, and I can vouch for the prayer at the end. God answers prayers like this. Conversion is a continual turning. Pray for it everyday! When we pray for closeness to God it can only be the Holy Spirit praying through us (cf Rom 8:26).
My favorite prayer is the Rosary (after the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, of course). I began praying it nearly everyday (again) about a year ago. This is actually something that I began in 2003, when my first daughter was a newborn. It was the beginning of a renewal of my life. I cannot begin to tell you the difference the Rosary has made. In 2003 I realized that I attended 16 years of Catholic education, yet I never knew that the Rosary was not just a bunch of repetitive prayers. I finally learned that it is a meditation on the life of Christ and His Blessed Mother, Mary. I didn’t learn this until someone gave me a little book called “The Scriptural Rosary.” I received the gift and set it aside for a few years…
At the time I began praying the Rosary I was weary about the Church teaching on Mary! This is an example of how God can take a doubt in our heart and help us grow in faith (cf Rom 8:28). I felt like if I prayed to her, asking for her intercession, that I was ignoring Jesus. I now know that I didn’t understand the Love that Jesus has for us and his Mother. A son cannot refuse his mother, can he? If Mary desires something that is good for us Jesus will not refuse her, and this is why we ask her to intercede. This is why my own children may come to me first, before asking their dad! The Church honors Jesus’ mother because Jesus honors His mother. He not only honored her when she asked him to begin His ministry, (the wedding at Cana) but He gave her to us as our mother in His dying moments on the Cross.
The first mystery is the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38) – Mary says “Yes” to God and via the Holy Spirit conceives the Son of God. Think about her, a human being, (by this I mean she was no different than we are, except for Original Sin), hearing this news. Would you believe it? God created Mary as the “New Eve,” except this time Eve lived in a sinful world. God had long before made a plan to redeem the world through her (cf Gen 3:15). She had free will – she chose God’s will always. She could have said no! She chose to do the will of the Father saying, “Be it done unto me according to Thy Word.” Think about the tremendous Faith she must have had to say this. How many of us are being asked by God to do something extraordinary? We are all called by our Baptism to live and spread the Word of God as Christ showed us. We are called to obey His commandments. We are called to love everyone, even (and especially) our enemies. These are all extraordinary tasks that can only be achieved with God’s grace. We can receive God’s grace when we ask Him for it through prayer, or someone else asks God to give it to us through their prayers. We receive “grace upon grace” (cf John 1:17) every time we go to confession and/or receive the Eucharist. We cooperate with the grace received and accept God’s will into our own hearts every time we obey His commandments and love Him by loving our neighbor.
Now think of the Faith of St. Joseph – he stayed with Mary. He was told in a dream not to worry (Mt 1:18-25), that he must stay with Mary and be the earthly father of this child. Would you believe it? Most of us could never imagine getting messages from God like this. The obedience to the Father by these two human beings in our history is extraordinary. The souls of Mary and Joseph must have been in full communion with God, with their minds and hearts always attuned to His presence. How did they achieve this? Through incessant prayer and obeying God’s commandments. The Holy Spirit lived in them and worked through them. The lives of Mary and Joseph teach us much about living out the will of God. God can only communicate with us if we want Him to and if we listen. We talk to Him through prayer. We listen through silence — through meditation and contemplation. We show Him that we want a relationship through continuous prayer. Everything we do, except for sin, can be offered as a prayer and sacrifice to God. (Phil 4:6). If we look at our lives this way, we cannot help but grow in love for God and His people.
“Lord, may thoughts of you be on my mind every moment of every day.”
Ressourcement — a return to the beginning, the source, the foundation.
This is a word to which I never knew the meaning until I began my theology studies in 2013. In the context of the Catholic Church, it is a movement of theologians in the 20th Century to return to the sources of the Christian faith as a foundation for doing theology, namely Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers. For more information about this movement consider this link about Nouvelle Théologie: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nouvelle_th%C3%A9ologie.
Ressourcement makes perfect sense to me.
Go to the source! Don’t formulate ideas or opinions based on what someone says someone said.
Unfortunately this is exactly what we do when we allow the news media, whatever label it is given, to inform our minds. A little curiosity about sources is a good thing. Let’s consider ressourcement in the context of who we listen to today.
The pandemic has been a blessing to me personally in multiple ways. I am grateful that we have been healthy so far! One important blessing is that I have made a concerted effort to listen to the source, the Vicar of Christ, our Holy Father — Pope Francis. His daily Masses have been shared on YouTube; there are even some mini-videos of him providing the daily Mass intentions. I go listen to his homilies after I listen to the daily readings every morning.
There is so much out there that is so critical of Pope Francis. Some of it comes even from people for whom I have great respect. Some is not just criticism of ideas, but mean-spirited criticism of a person. It is a great reminder to me of my own sinfulness, and of how I can become lost in my own opinions and ideas. I wonder when I read some people’s comments, or hear about some of the headlines, if these people have actually listened to the source.
If we aren’t careful we can lose sight of what is true. Unfortunately I know this personally, and my conscience often prompts me to repent. By God’s grace I repent. There but for the grace of God go I.
I say this not because I am good. Only God is good — even Jesus told us this! I say this because there is a fundamental error that we can make when we do not go to the source: we reject the dignity of the human person when we do not listen in order to hear them.
If we make a judgement about a person’s motives we are being disrespectful of their God-given dignity. We have already turned down the sound — we don’t listen to them. We listen only to what we have previously conceived in our minds. I have been guilty of this too many times.
There are particular Catholic news websites that are quite embarrassing to me as a Catholic. It is said that people will know that we are Christians by our love. I have always been taught that truth and love are not mutually exclusive. St. Paul was very clear on this in 1 Cor 13:1-13. More often then not, if I read an article from one of these sites I ask myself, “Where is the love?” Or “Is this article bearing the fruits of the Holy Spirit?”
I urge all of us to listen to the source directly. Especially when the source is il Papa!
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, and I just “went” to Mass in my living room with my beloved family. This pandemic has given us the opportunity to change our ways of doing things — a hidden blessing is that we talk about the readings together. I teach the Bible, but I usually don’t force this upon my own family…(They often remind me that they get enough through everyday conversation, lol). Today I couldn’t help myself. For reference, click the link for the readings from Mass today, the 4th Sunday of Easter: USCCB.
St. Peter begins in the Acts of the Apostles: “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed: “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:14, 36).
Granted, the readings for today skip over a wonderful review by Peter of Salvation History (skipping Acts 2:15-35), still, I asked the family the following question, knowing that they could answer it: “Who is Peter talking to?”
“The Jews,” my oldest daughter said.
YES! The Jews. The reading continues, saying that they were “cut to the heart” and they asked what they should do.
“Repent and be baptized!” Peter said.
Aha! Baptism! So I asked the question, “What is the big deal about Baptism, and what does it have to do with today’s readings?”
The answer is everything (not my family’s answer!), when we consider the Rite of Baptism in the Catholic Church. The rite begins with questions, and the second question is the most relevant to today’s readings.
“What is the name of the child you bring for Baptism?
Our given name is so important, especially when we are baptized. This is our adoption, through Jesus, into the Holy Family of God. We become tabernacles of the Holy Spirit, imbued with the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. We are brought into the Blessed Trinity of Love. We are washed clean of Original Sin, given the light of Christ, and we “put on” the white garment of Christ. All this is done with our own name, and in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In the psalm today we chant, “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want” (Ps 23:1). He leads us and guides us, for HIS name’s sake. He gives us everything we need. This psalm is good to remember and to pray, especially when we move to the second reading, where we hear from St. Peter again.
Peter begins, “If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps” (1 Pt 2:20b-21).
This man whom God made Lord and Christ suffered for us (recall first reading). This man said to us, “Follow me.” (Many times in the Gospels). When we are baptized we put on His garment, we receive His light — for a glorious purpose — to share in His victory over sin and death. St. Peter concludes, “For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls” (ibid, v. 25).
Why do we follow Him?
Because He is the Good Shepherd, but not only this. He is the gate. “Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture” (John 10:9), Jesus says in today’s Gospel.
How do we know to go through Him?
The answer is earlier in the Gospel reading: “But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (Jn 10:2-3, my emphasis).
Do we see the importance of our name? Do we see why the Church asks for this name for Baptism? When He calls our name… when we hear His voice… we remember, and we follow!
Jesus is always calling our name, because we belong to Him through Baptism.
Recall Mary Magdalene on Easter Sunday — when did she recognize the Lord, her Shepherd?
“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’” (Jn 20:16). We read this only a few weeks ago.
Fast forward to another book in the Bible. Jesus echoes the words of Peter from today in the Book of Revelation. Here is ‘the rest of the story’:
“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Rev 3:5).
Jesus is our Shepherd, our Defender. He knows our name, and we know Him. The Father sees us and loves us through Him, and brings us into union with the Trinity, in the Holy Spirit.