HOMILY – WEEK 10 01
Memorial: Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church
(Gen 32:9-15,20; Judith 13:18-20; Jn 19:25-27)
Take a moment to think of your mother. What thoughts come to mind, and what feelings flood your heart? Hopefully gratitude, warmth, tenderness, affection, and compassion for her limitations, etc. Now think of Mary, Mother of the Church whom we honor today. Hopefully, those same emotions will transfer over, minus the need for compassion and forgiveness, as Mary was the perfect disciple of her Son, Jesus.
Today’s liturgy invites us to grow in our appreciation of Mary as Mother of the universal church. According to the Living With Christ, this memorial was instituted by Pope Francis on February 11, 2018 – the 160thanniversary of the apparition of Mary at Lourdes. The title “Mother of the Church” was bestowed on the Blessed Virgin Mary during the Second Vatican Council by Pope Paul VI who declared that “the Mother of God would be further honored and invoked by this tenderest of titles.” This movable feast is observed on the Monday following Pentecost and takes precedence over other memorials which may fall on the same day.
The Congregation of Divine Worship adds this comment: “The Mother standing beneath the cross accepted her Son’s testament of love and welcomed all people in the person of the beloved disciple as sons and daughters to be reborn into life eternal. She thus became the tender Mother of the Church which Christ begot on the cross handing on the Spirit.”
The Word Among Usoffers a reflection on this memorial: “A young mother stood in line at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Holding her children’s hands, she wondered what to expect as the motorized sidewalk carried her toward the miraculous image of Mary on St. Juan Diego’s tilma. She had never had a particular devotion to Mary, but her own mother had died years earlier, and she wondered what place Mary might have in her life now. As she looked up at the tilma, the words Mary spoke to Juan Diego sounded clearly in her mind: ‘Am I not here who am your mother?’ The words touched her heart, and she began to weep as the tenderness of Mary’s maternal love overwhelmed her.
This story shows how God has given mothers a unique ability to tend to their children’s hearts and heal their woundedness. This is actually one of the things Pope Francis emphasized in 2018 when he instituted today’s memorial of Mary Mother of the Church. In his decree, he said he wanted to “encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church.’ In a homily on that year’s feast, Pope Francis explained that tenderness is a hallmark of Mary and of all motherhood, including the motherhood of the Church.
We know that Jesus gave Mary to John at the foot of the cross so that he could care for her. But he also gave John – and all of us – to Mary so that shecan care for us. Mary shows us the same tenderness she showed Jesus as she wrapped him in swaddling cloth and laid him in the manger. She instructs us, just as she instructed the servants at the wedding at Cana, to do whatever Jesus tells us. She encourages us and prays with us as she did with the disciples awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirt. She welcomes each of us because she loves us as her own children.”
This reflection resonated with me as I have had that experience of seeing the tilmanumerous time – and each time felt that maternal love of Mary reaching out personally to me. I am also struck by the contrast between the first mother of all the living, Eve, and the mother of the Church, Mary. In the first reading from Genesis, Adam and Eve fell for the temptation to make themselves like God by disobeying God’s will for them and insisting on their own stubborn self-will, a trait that persists to this day in the world.
The unfortunate consequences of that wilfulness are noted in that first reading – shame and blame, guilt and fear. With Mary, the mother of the Church, it is the exact opposite – forgiveness and dignity, freedom and fearlessness. These are the qualities we can ask her Son to give us so we can emulate her, as well as venerate her.
Mary is also our greatest sign of hope, as she is already experiencing what we hope to experience someday after our time on this wounded world is over. She is with the Trinity, enjoying the fullness of eternal life. In her, our humanity has been assumed into heaven, just as was the humanity of Jesus at his ascension.
Sr. Raymonde Arcand, a member of the Presentation of Mary congregation, died last Saturday morning in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, where she had faithfully ministered to the Indigenous peoples for most of her ministry. With the courage of Mary, she battled numerous illnesses and numerous losses, such as her ability to sing and play the guitar, but carried on sharing the redeeming love of Jesus and the maternal love of Mary to those who are so often excluded and marginalized. It was an honor and a privilege to be part of the same First Nations Ministry Team with her close friend and colleague, Sr. Rita Bisson PM. How fitting that she should die on this day dedicated to Mary, Mother of the Church.
Mary is a woman of the Eucharist. Perhaps she was at the Last Supper. Certainly, she was with the apostles and disciples in the Upper Room when the Spirit of her Risen Son birthed the infant church, of which she became the mother. Her journey to visit her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, carrying the unborn child Jesus in her womb, was the first Eucharistic procession!
May our celebration today deepen our appreciation of her role as the tender Mother of the Church, and empower us to emulate her in that role – to share with all others her tender, maternal love, as did Sr. Raymonde Arcand.