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Summary: What the world needs now is what it has always needed to preserve, nurture and grow the human family, the family of God.

Ascension Day/Mothers’ Day 2018

One of the signature songs of the so-called “decade of love,” the nineteen-sixties, was Burt Bacharach’s “What the World Needs Now.” The answer, according to lyricist Hal David, is “love, sweet love.” The song even dared to tell the Lord that is what the world needs, “if you want to know.”

I imagine that the premiere of that musical blasphemy would have made the heavens laugh, if the foreseeable results of the decade of love were not so horrible. Fifty-three years later, we can see that much of that “love” was really lust, self-indulgence and injustice. That same year the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all laws against contraception, and shortly after the U.S. government got into the child-prevention business, thinking they could eliminate poverty by eliminating the children of the poor. It didn’t take long for the culture to legalize murdering infants in the womb, and all that came from that abomination, including the sale of their tiny body parts.

What the world needs now is what it has always needed to preserve, nurture and grow the human family, the family of God. The world needs strong families, and everything else will flow from that. From the beginning, the Catholic Church has encouraged family formation and development. The Romans left unwanted children out to die; the Christians refused to do that and even rescued many from a painful death. Roman men had the power of life and death over their wives, children and slaves; Christian men practiced respect for all human life, especially in their families.

St. Paul instructed us early in the Church’s life: “lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” That, I believe, should be the motto of every Catholic family, as we model for the secular world what kind of foundation all human society must have. Jesus ascended to the heavens, not to create a great void in the world, in the Church, but to open a pathway for the sending of the Holy Spirit who would transform us. That is, the Holy Spirit transforms us into images of Jesus for our day, and transforms our families into images of the Holy Family of Nazareth, and the Blessed Trinity, which is the fundamental nature of God.

When we think of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we rightly place the Blessed Mother at the human center. Yes, Jesus was the divine center, but Mary and Joseph formed the human nature of their divine Son. It was Mary’s DNA that constituted the foundation of Christ’s own. It was her word, “be it done to me according to thy word,” that formed the core of Christ’s prayer in the garden, the prayer we together say at every liturgy: “thy will be done.” Motherhood is the highest vocation of any human being. We all know the debt we owe to good and holy mothers. We men know that our mothers and wives and even daughters civilize us. They smooth out our rough corners. And every daughter who has a virtuous mother knows how much they model themselves after mom. “I am like my mother,” is a cry of triumph, not of defeat.

So this joining of Ascension Day to Mothers’ Day is a special blessing for us. We are all called to ascend to the heights of heaven, to join the celestial family, when this earthly life has passed. So as we prepare for that time, we must appreciate and thank and pray for our mothers, living or dead, and help the moms in our lives to follow the example of the Virgin of Nazareth during all of life. Every mother is called, like her, to pour out the earthly life in the service and love of her human family, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature [humanity], to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

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