Summary: The Father's free gift makes us His sons and daughters, and we grow in faith through obedience in suffering.
Our Lady of Sorrows 2016
Joy of the Gospel
The commemoration of Our Lady of Sorrows comes right after the great Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross–yesterday. We cannot separate Mary from Jesus and we cannot separate either from the definitive work of our salvation that they together experienced on Calvary. Mary was, after all, the first to be freed from sin and filled with grace–even before the birth of Her Son. She was in a real sense the first Christian missionary, for the first thing she did after learning of the Incarnation was to go on a missionary journey to her cousin, Elizabeth.
The Holy Father continues to tell us about our mission of evangelization: ‘The Lord’s missionary mandate includes a call to growth in faith: “Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:20). Hence it is clear that the first proclamation also calls for ongoing formation and maturation. Evangelization aims at a process of growth which entails taking seriously each person and God’s plan for his or her life. All of us need to grow in Christ. Evangelization should stimulate a desire for this growth, so that each of us can say wholeheartedly: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
‘It would not be right to see this call to growth exclusively or primarily in terms of doctrinal formation. It has to do with “observing” all that the Lord has shown us as the way of responding to his love. Along with the virtues, this means above all the new commandment, the first and the greatest of the commandments, and the one that best identifies us as Christ’s disciples: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12). Clearly, whenever the New Testament authors want to present the heart of the Christian moral message, they present the essential requirement of love for one’s neighbour: “The one who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the whole law… therefore love of neighbour is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:8, 10). These are the words of Saint Paul, for whom the commandment of love not only sums up the law but constitutes its very heart and purpose: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’” (Gal 5:14). To his communities Paul presents the Christian life as a journey of growth in love: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all” (1 Th 3:12). Saint James likewise exhorts Christians to fulfil “the royal law according to the Scripture: You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (2:8), in order not to fall short of any commandment.
‘On the other hand this process of response and growth is always preceded by God’s gift, since the Lord first says: “Baptize them in the name…” (Mt 28:19). The Father’s free gift which makes us his sons and daughters, and the priority of the gift of his grace (cf. Eph 2:8-9; 1 Cor 4:7), enable that constant sanctification which pleases God and gives him glory. In this way, we allow ourselves to be transformed in Christ through a life lived “according to the Spirit”’
I need to say one thing more about Jesus, Mary and the life lived according to the Spirit. At no time did the Spirit of the Lord leave Jesus and Mary–even on Calvary. If that Spirit had not been in them, Jesus could not have breathed out His spirit in order to bring about the birth of the Church from his wide open heart. Jesus learned and practiced obedience to the Father just as His Mother, Mary did. In fact, she was the one who taught the humanity of Jesus to be obedient to the Father. The one who first said, “be it done to me according to thy Word” was the teacher of Him who taught us to say “thy kingdom come; thy will be done.”
But Jesus, Mary and the rest of us learn obedience through what we suffer. We are completed by the acceptance of the sufferings of our daily life–whether mere inconvenience or persecution. We become like Jesus and Mary in that way. So let’s pray today for the grace to witness to others the love of God and the perfect obedience of sons and daughters, and let’s pray for those who are struggling with frustration and pain, that they, too, may find in their experience the grace of Jesus Christ.