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Summary: Jesus broke the long cycle of apostasy, trouble, repentance and deliverance by creating a Church that would be the light to the nations until He returns.

Commemoration of Ignatius Loyola 2014

Lumen Fidei

If you have ever watched a potter throw a pitcher or bowl on a wheel, you can relate to the image that Jeremiah is using in the prophecy. For weeks now we have been reading the history of Israel and Judah as they frequently ignored the Law of God and whored after demons, and then, when they got into trouble, occasionally turned back and repented before God. By the time of Jeremiah, who prophesied toward the end of the Judaic kingdom, it appears that God’s patience had run out. Instead of this thousand year-old cycle of apostasy, oppression, repentance and deliverance, the oppression would last for several decades.

What God wanted of Israel and Judah was one kingdom that would worship the true divinity rightly, and practice justice throughout the land. They would be a light to the nations, and attract other peoples to right religion–in worship and in justice. What God got most of the time was apostasy and theft and adultery and falsehood and murder. Instead of converting the nations, the Hebrew people themselves adopted the practices of the surrounding culture. So God sent a series of Assyrian and Babylonian kings to attack them, and eventually they were taken away in a series of three exiles. It was to be in the Babylonian exile that the master potter would remake His people into a useful pot. And change they did.

But by the time of Jesus, they had turned false again. The unity of the people had broken down and they were fractured into Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots. All had different objectives. None held up love of God and love of neighbor as the greatest commandments. So Our Lord came to train them for the kingdom of heaven, to teach them to love, even their enemies. It was too much for them, so they murdered Him. But after His death, He rose again, sent the Holy Spirit and the result was a two thousand year old Church that has consistently taught the truth and acted as that light to the nations–one, holy, Catholic and apostolic.

Thus the miraculous story that began with a humble virgin in Nazareth is coming to fruition in our day. The popes, in their great encyclical, continue the tradition of ending their letters with a tribute to the Mother of God, Mary, and her faith: In the parable of the sower, Saint Luke has left us these words of the Lord about the “good soil”: “These are the ones who when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience endurance” (Lk 8:15). In the context of Luke’s Gospel, this mention of an honest and good heart which hears and keeps the word is an implicit portrayal of the faith of the Virgin Mary. The evangelist himself speaks of Mary’s memory, how she treasured in her heart all that she had heard and seen, so that the word could bear fruit in her life. The Mother of the Lord is the perfect icon of faith; as Saint Elizabeth would say: “Blessed is she who believed”

In Mary, the Daughter of Zion, is fulfilled the long history of faith of the Old Testament, with its account of so many faithful women, beginning with Sarah: women who, alongside the patriarchs, were those in whom God’s promise was fulfilled and new life flowered. In the fullness of time, God’s word was spoken to Mary and she received that word into her heart, her entire being, so that in her womb it could take flesh and be born as light for humanity. Saint Justin Martyr, in his dialogue with Trypho, uses a striking expression; he tells us that Mary, receiving the message of the angel, conceived “faith and joy”.49 In the Mother of Jesus, faith demonstrated its fruitfulness; when our own spiritual lives bear fruit we become filled with joy, which is the clearest sign of faith’s grandeur. In her own life Mary completed the pilgrimage of faith, following in the footsteps of her Son.50 In her the faith journey of the Old Testament was thus taken up into the following of Christ, transformed by him and entering into the gaze of the incarnate Son of God.

This day devoted to the remembrance of St. Ignatius Loyola, we should recall that during his conversion, he visited the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat, and there had a vision of the Blessed Virgin and the infant Jesus. It was only after that experience that he was able to write his great Spiritual Exercises, that inspire many even today. As we pray for more faith, let’s not forget to ask Mary, who sits next to her Son, to intercede for our faith, and the faith of all the world.

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