HOMILY EASTER SEASON WEEK 07 04 – Year I
Optional Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi
(Acts 22:30 – 23:11; Ps 16; Jn 17:20-26)
Are you yearning for intimacy?
Believe in God’s love for you, and strive to be one with others.
Most people, even if not that conscious of it, are yearning for intimacy. The readings today tap into that desire. The gospel is all about loving relationships, a priority for Jesus during his last hours with his disciples before his death. The psalm reminds us that God is our refuge and we can be secure in God’s love.
There is a pattern in our lives: Being loved leads to a profound feeling of security, that in turn offers us a sense of belonging. That leads to a certain peace and order in our lives, that culminates in a sense of wellbeing.
The main concern of Jesus at this critical moment of his time on earth with his disciples is their unity and oneness that he prays will mirror the intimate unity and oneness with the Father.
We can hardly imagine the depth and magnitude of that relationship – Father pouring out love to the Son, who in turn pours out selfless love to the Spirit, who in her turn pours out selfless love to the Father. Richard Rohr, in his book The Divine Dance, seeks to help us understand the dynamics of that relationship with the word perichoresis or divine dance.
William Paul Young, author of The Shack, wrote the foreword for that book. He was chosen certainly because of his similar portrayal of the life of the Trinity. In fact, the movie based on the book, at one point has the Father (a black motherly woman) dancing with the Spirit (a young spritely Asian woman). What a dynamic, attractive and irresistible image of God!
The inspiration for both the book and the movie comes from the beautiful painting by André Rublev entitled either The Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah or simply The Trinity. That painting has a small rectangle on the table facing the viewer, implying that we are to join in the dance as a fourth person of the Holy Trinity.
We join in that dance in two distinct ways. The first has to be contemplation, spending quality time in God’s presence, soaking up God’s love and being attentive to the subtle movement of the Holy Spirit within us. “Lectio Divina” (reading, meditating, praying with and pondering the Word) is an excellent method of mature Christian prayer that will deepen our intimate relationship with the Holy Trinity. Mary of Bethany is a biblical example of this – she was not so much listening to Jesus’ words, as she was simply aware that she was in the presence of THE Word, and soaking up God’s love that way.
The other way is striving for unity with all others in our lives and reaching out especially to those who are different than our selves. It is interesting that there are two words for the evil one – “devil” and “Satan”. Devil comes from diabolos, and means “to divide.” Satan does the opposite – gathers people but for destructive purposes, like ISIS or a mob. Wherever this is the situation, Satan is at work. Wherever there is unhealthy division and painful tension, the devil is at work.
According to Fr. Armand Nigro S.J. in his work with Vietnam War veterans and their spouses, the only couples who survived relationally were those who took the time to go through a process of communication and reconciliation upon their reunion. They had to share their stories, all of it, knowing that there was more love in trusting and telling the truth than in withholding the truth out of fear of hurting the other’s feelings. Then they had to forgive each other from the heart. The couples who managed to do this ended up having an even stronger relationship then they had before being separated, because of all the love as trust and forgiveness that this process entailed.
It is his intimate relationship with the Father, through Jesus, in the Holy Spirit, that empowered St. Paul to pour out his life for others as he spread the good news of the resurrection Jesus and the joy of a Spirit filled life that sought to bring others into the divine dance that he was experiencing despite all obstacles and resistance.
Today the church invites us to honour St. Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi. She was born Catherine, into a prominent family in Florence in 1566. Rejecting her parents’ proposed suitors, she convinced her family of her religious vocation and at 17 became a Carmelite nun. Her biography gives a detailed account of her intense spiritual journey with its periods of desolation and ecstasy. Mary Magdalene had the gifts of prophecy and healing. She died in 1607 and her uncorrupted body is enshrined in the convent church. She lived in the fire of the Holy Spirit.
The Eucharist is an intimate meal with the Trinity that always begins “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” We hear of God’s love through the Words of Jesus, and then through the power of the Holy Spirit, humble gifts of bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus we are so privileged to share – truly an intimate moment with the Risen Lord.
May our celebration deepen our intimate relationship with the Holy Trinity, join in the divine dance, and strive for unity and oneness with all others in our lives.