These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. (Jn 20:14-16)
Saint Mary Magdalene’s fierce love for the Lord brought her to the tomb on that first day of the week. Even though she thought he was the gardener, once he called her by name, “Mary,” she answered with faith, “Master.” And then she went to tell the others . . . which is why the early church called her, the “Apostle to the Apostles!” She still has lots to tell to all of us.
While Jesus was speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him. Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.” But he said in reply to the one who told him, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Mt 12:46-50)
Saint Augustine knew that we are brothers and sisters to the Lord, but he always wondered how we could be mothers to the Lord. He decided that perhaps we could be mothers to the Lord when we brought others to faith. What a wonderful thought . . . helping to birth the Lord in others!
You have been told what the LORD requires of you: Only to act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
This is probably the best known quote from all the Prophets thanks to Catholic sisters; for every Catholic sister I have ever known has had this verse carved on her heart.
For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all. (Wisdom 12:16)
The Book of Wisdom is praising God’s might, or power. But that power is not expressed through humiliating and destroying enemies, but rather in mercy (God’s being lenient to all). As the Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat points out, there are lots of folks who would like to take it on themselves to weed God’s garden:
His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest.'
It’s significant that the owner says, “No thank you! Just let the weeds and wheat grow together . . . they will be separated at harvest time.” Now you and I know that weeding the summer garden is essential. But God has a different idea. Perhaps mercy is not a sign of weakness . . . just the opposite, mercy is power. Our God who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity” (Psalm 86).
This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Isaiah the prophet: Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight; I shall place my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. . . . . And in his name the Gentiles will hope. (Mt 12:17-18, 21)
The Gospel of Matthew is citing one of the four Servant Songs from the prophet Isaiah. The earliest Christology (the understanding of who Jesus is) finds its roots in these ancient passages. It is interesting to note how important justice is in the understanding of who Jesus is: Jesus our justice and our hope.
Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath” . . . . Jesus said to them: If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.” (Mt 12:1-2, 7-8)
Jesus not only sets aside the Law of God . . . he declares the guilty, innocent. Mercy indeed . . . not sacrifice.
R. O Blessed Virgin Mary, you carried the Son of the eternal Father. "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior." R. O Blessed Virgin Mary, you carried the Son of the eternal Father. "For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name." R. O Blessed Virgin Mary, you carried the Son of the eternal Father. "He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit." R. O Blessed Virgin Mary, you carried the Son of the eternal Father. "He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty." R. O Blessed Virgin Mary, you carried the Son of the eternal Father. "He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever." R. O Blessed Virgin Mary, you carried the Son of the eternal Father.
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the patronal feast of the Carmelites . . . but several other Marian feasts associated with other religious communities are also attached to this day. For example, the Benedictines of Saint Meinrad Archabbey celebrate today as the Feast of Our Lady of Einsedeln (the motherhouse of their community). The Responsorial Psalm is the Magnificat of the Virgin Mary. The church in its wisdom places the Magnificat on our lips every day at Evening Prayer to remind us that Mary sings the praises of God who “casts down the mighty from their thrones, lifts up the lowly, fills the hungry with good things, and sends the rich away empty.” Social justice is NOT optional.
The photo today is of Our Lady of Einsedeln in the Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church, Indiana.