Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: The love that is the Holy Spirit is the power that saves us, and empowers us to be like Christ in the world.

Monday after Pentecost

Memorial Day

Verbum Domini

Before the reform of the Roman liturgy back in the 70's, Pentecost had its own octave, culminating in Trinity Sunday. Whatever we may think of the change, we are now taken from the mountaintop experience of the commemoration of the coming of the Holy Spirit and thrust the next day into the nitty-gritty of leading Spirit-filled lives in the secular world. And so we are given, in both the lesson and the Gospel, a picture of the kingdom of God in this world and in the world to come. St. Peter reminds us of our goal and our living hope, the inheritance that is ours as adopted sons and daughters of the Father, a legacy “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for” us. But he also emphasizes our current situation. We are guarded by our faith in Christ, which will lead to suffering, a suffering that tests its authenticity as fire burns out the imperfections in precious metals. At the end, though, that faith brings our souls salvation–and our bodies, too, because we hope for the same resurrection experienced by Jesus and His Blessed Mother.

Mark gives us the story of the rich man who asked for that inheritance, but preferred to keep his earthly inheritance. He was offered the opportunity to have eternal union with the Ultimate Good, but his worldly goods got in the way. Our earthly goods, which are secondary goods because they are useful to us, give us pleasure, comfort. We say that we “enjoy” them, but what we really mean is that they put us in a pleasant state. Sometimes we will even say we “love” them, but that’s a misuse of the term. We can truly love only a person, one who can by an act of will accept or reject our love. We can learn that from the Blessed Trinity, where the Father and the Son love each other so perfectly that that personal love is a person–the Holy Spirit. True joy comes only when we are in conformity with the divine love. True joy comes from the kind of self-giving that the Father and the Son enjoy with each other in the Holy Spirit. That is why I am so delighted that the new translation of our Mass collects ends, as the Latin does, with the words, “in the unity of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit brings together the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit brings us together with the Son in the Mystical Body. Always remember that the love that is the Holy Spirit is the power that saves us–all things are possible with that divine power. That was the Word first given by angel Gabriel to Mary at the Annunciation.

The Holy Father asks us to especially consider Mary as the one “in whom the interplay between the word of God and faith was brought to perfection, that is, to the Virgin Mary.” Mary is the disciple of perfectly obedient faith, a faith that was so alive, so complete that it opened the door that allowed the Word of God to become flesh for our salvation. Moreover, she was incredibly familiar with the word of God, the Old Testament. “This is clearly evident in the great prayer in Luke’s Gospel, the Magnificat. Mary says she is the handmaid of the Lord, but she is freely God’s servant. She was perfectly free to serve God because she was perfectly free from the enslavement of sin. “She identifies with the word, enters into it.” “She sings the praises of the Lord in his own words.” “Since Mary is completely imbued with the word of God, she is able to become the Mother of the Word Incarnate.” Through her faith, and the action of the Holy Spirit, she was transformed from the humble woman of Nazareth into the Mother of the Messiah, the Mother of the Crucified, and the Mother of the Church. “As we contemplate in the Mother of God a life totally shaped by the word, we realize that we too are called to enter into the mystery of faith, whereby Christ comes to dwell in our lives. Every Christian believer, St. Ambrose reminds us, in some way interiorly conceives and gives birth to the word of God: even though there is only one Mother of Christ in the flesh, in the faith Christ is the progeny of us all.”

As we conclude this month of Mary, we also come upon our secular Memorial Day. Today the friends and relatives of those who died defending our Constitution and Republic bring out pictures and paintings of them, put flowers around their representations and on their graves, and pray for them or ask for their prayers. During this month, we also bring out paintings and statues of our mother Mary, put flowers around them, since she has no grave, and ask for her intercessory prayer. What a powerful response to her prophecy that all generations–her progeny–would call her blessed. What a splendid work of power God has done in her lives. May he continue to do so in our time, through us, his servants and handmaids.

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