Summary: "He [God] will dwell forever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul”
Thursday of 19th Week in Course 2017
Joy of the Gospel
The story of Joshua and the people of Israel crossing the Jordan River in flood season, on dry land, is reminiscent of the crossing of the sea by Israel in the time of Moses. We needn’t concern ourselves with just how it happened. Into the modern era, occasional earthquakes and mud slides have dammed up the Jordan upstream of the crossing location. But the miracle was well-timed by God and validated Joshua’s leadership of God’s people. A couple of thousand years later, John baptized Jesus in the same locale, and that triggered a spiritual flood–the Holy Spirit–that continues to change hearts today. The change of hearts is wrapped up with forgiveness–our sins are forgiven by the action of the Holy Spirit to the extent that we forgive those who have wronged us. That’s the business end of the Lord’s prayer. “Forgive us as we forgive.”
Where did Jesus in His human nature learn forgiveness? Certainly in the heart of the Holy Family. Joseph and Mary, oppressed with all the other Jews by Roman tyranny, had to practice forgiveness daily. Jesus lived in the same hostile environment, and suffered death at its hands. But what did He say: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
As the Holy Father reaches the last paragraphs of his encyclical, like other Popes before him, he turns to Mary. He has just written about the power of intercessory prayer. Now he continues:‘With the Holy Spirit, Mary is always present in the midst of the people. She joined the disciples in praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) and thus made possible the missionary outburst which took place at Pentecost. She is the Mother of the Church which evangelizes, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelization.
‘On the cross, when Jesus endured in his own flesh the dramatic encounter of the sin of the world and God’s mercy, he could feel at his feet the consoling presence of his mother and his friend. At that crucial moment, before fully accomplishing the work which his Father had entrusted to him, Jesus said to Mary: “Woman, here is your son”. Then he said to his beloved friend: “Here is your mother” (Jn 19:26-27). These words of the dying Jesus are not chiefly the expression of his devotion and concern for his mother; rather, they are a revelatory formula which manifests the mystery of a special saving mission. Jesus left us his mother to be our mother. Only after doing so did Jesus know that “all was now finished” (Jn 19:28). At the foot of the cross, at the supreme hour of the new creation, Christ led us to Mary. He brought us to her because he did not want us to journey without a mother, and our people read in this maternal image all the mysteries of the Gospel. The Lord did not want to leave the Church without this icon of womanhood. Mary, who brought him into the world with great faith, also accompanies “the rest of her offspring, those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus” (Rev 12:17). The close connection between Mary, the Church and each member of the faithful, based on the fact that each in his or her own way brings forth Christ, has been beautifully expressed by Blessed Isaac of Stella: “In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary... In a way, every Christian is also believed to be a bride of God’s word, a mother of Christ, his daughter and sister, at once virginal and fruitful... Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb. He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell forever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul”.’
We’ll finish our journey into the Joy of the Gospel next week, exactly three years and a day after we began it in 2014. That’s in the same week as the patronal feast of our parish. There are exciting events happening in this parish right now. We’ll begin our RCIA program next month. There are going to be new ways to participate in the new evangelization, which is the whole point of the encyclical. I think this three year journey has been a time of quiet prayer, asking for the Holy Spirit to work in us as He did in the Blessed Virgin. The world is in big trouble without Christ. Let’s ask Him to send His Holy Spirit so that we may truly work to renew all things in Christ.