Immaculate Heart of Mary

HOMILY WEEK 10 06 – Year I

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

(Is 61:9-11; 1 Sm 2; Lk 2:41-51)


“Without God, we cannot. Without us, God will not.”

That statement by St. Augustine fits today’s memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who models for us a life of deep faith lived out in pure love.

The gospel chosen for this memorial, the finding of the child Jesus in the Temple that serves as the fifth joyful mystery of the rosary, is also very fitting as we tease out its deeper meaning.

St. Luke carefully points out the setting was the annual journey of the Holy Family to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. That was the central feast of the Jewish religion, celebrating the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. What Luke wants to highlight, certainly, is that Jesus is the new Adam, the new Moses, the true Lamb of God whose Passover, whose passion, death and resurrection, would liberate all of humanity from the power of sin, addiction, self-absorption and death.

Then he purposefully informs us this incident took place when Jesus was twelve years old. Think of other gospel incidents involving that number, namely the woman who suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years, and the daughter of the synagogue official who had died at the age of twelve. The significance of these miracles is both these persons were unable to live life fully or to give life – the older woman unclean and unable to participate in the religious life of the community, the girl dying just before she had the power to give birth.  Jesus, the twelve-year old child found in the temple, is the one who would give eternal life to all who believe in him as the Messiah, Son of God and Risen Lord.

Luke also lets us know that the distraught parents spend three days searching for him in Jerusalem – a not so subtle reminder that this child was destined to spend three biblical days in the grip of that death which he would overcome through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, they find him in the temple, the very place where they had brought him to present him to God according to the religious custom of the Jews, which we pray as the fourth joyful mystery of the rosary. The irony is that Jesus, as the new temple, did not need to be presented – he is the one who would restore the glory of God to the temple, and who would be the new temple where God dwelt among humans (John 2:19, “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’”)

Finally, the response of Jesus to Mary’s question as to why he had done this was a cryptic reminder that he must be about his Father’s business. This is a bridge to the revelation of God he would bring about – that God was family, a trinitarian relationship united in love – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This incident involving Joseph, Mary and Jesus ends up being loaded with meaning in terms of the revelation of Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. God was subtlety preparing God’s people for this divine intervention into the life of the world.

The passage from Isaiah chosen as the first reading is also fitting for this memorial, as it reflects the spirit and content of Mary’s Magnificat, proclaimed during her visitation to her cousin Elizabeth, the second joyful mystery of the rosary. Mary is a “descendant of the just” who shall be known among the nations and across the generations. She enables us to also be among these descendants. Mary proclaimed boldly that all people will call her blessed, and her spirit humbly exulted with joy. She could truly praise God for clothing her with salvation and righteousness, and invites us to do the same.

The Word Among Us points out that Jesus asks more than three hundred questions in the Gospels, while directly answering only a handful. That’s because instead of giving easy, straightforward answers, he prompts people to search their hearts, examine their attitudes and deepen their relationship with God and each other. He even questions his sinless mother, Mary, with the words, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Mary’s response to that question is significant. At first, she is astonished, but quickly moves beyond her initial surprise and took up a more prayerful attitude: she “kept all these things in her heart” (2:51). This is probably one of the clearest illustrations of Mary’s immaculate heart. She trusted Jesus had the best of intentions when he stayed behind at the Temple. Mary didn’t nurse a grudge against him for putting her and Joseph through the ordeal of searching for him. She didn’t act defensively or presume that Jesus was disrespecting her when he asked his question. She didn’t feel the need to put Jesus in his place or to use harsh words to establish her authority over him. She just took her concerns to God in prayer and asked God to help her understand.

Like Mary, we may not understand everything God seems to say or do in our life. But as we take the time to ponder and pray as she did, the Holy Spirit will help us. What’s more, we can ask Mary to intercede for us. She is the perfect model of someone who embraced Jesus’ words with a pure and trusting heart, and she can help us do that same.

The Eucharist is our new Passover meal in which we offer to God not animal sacrifice, but the ultimate sacrifice of the true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. May our celebration strengthen our faith to be more trusting like Mary’s, and our hearts to be more pure and single-minded like hers, as we continue to celebrate in her honor with joyful praise.

Updated: June 8, 2024 — 2:58 am

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