Becoming Jesus’ Sibling and … Mother, 16th Tuesday (I), July 21, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Doctor of the Church
July 21, 2015
Ex 14:21-15:1, Ex 15, Mt 12:46-50

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in this homily: 

  • Yesterday, Jesus described those who were asking him for yet another sign as a “faithless and adulterous generation.” Today he proposes his mother Mary as the counterpoint to that generation. Jesus has come, we see in today’s Gospel, to found a family composed of those who do the will of his Father together as Jesus does, whose words upon coming into the world were, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God” (Heb 10:7). Mary’s whole life can be encapsulated by her expression to God through the Archangel Gabriel, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” This is what characterizes the family Jesus has come to found.
  • We know that that family comes into existence through the incredible miracle of baptism. We ponder just how great baptism is in today’s first reading. Our imaginations are pushed to the wondrous brink when we ponder the Israelites walking through the Red Sea at the bottom of the sea bed with walls of water on the left and the right. But as great a miracle as that was, what God has done for us through the exodus of the waters of baptism is even greater, as he’s led us on a passover from alienation to God through original sin to divine filiation.
  • It’s not enough, however, for us to remain just ontological sons and daughters of God through baptism. Jesus wants us to become moral children as well, those who identity is shown by how they obey the heavenly Father. That’s what the Gospel is about.
  • But Jesus says something startling in the Gospel. We can somewhat understand how he might call us his “brother and sister” through imitating him and entering into his filial obedience of the Father. But he also says that the one who does the will of his heavenly Father is “my mother” as well. To understand what this means, we need to go back to St. Ambrose. Even though there’s only one mother of Jesus in the flesh, every Christian believer, Saint Ambrose told us, in some way meant to become Christ’s spiritual mother, someone who interiorly conceives and gives birth to the word of God: “Thus, what took place for Mary can daily take place in each of us, in the hearing of the word and in the celebration of the sacraments,” Pope Benedict wrote, commenting on St. Ambrose’s insight. I want to repeat that last sentence. What took place for Mary can take place in each of us daily, when we hear the Word, when we receive the Word made flesh in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, when we allow Jesus and his word to grow within us in such a way that we give birth to him in loving actions. Each of us is meant to conceive the Word, to become pregnant with it, and let it grow so big that we have to give it to the light, transmuted by our own existence as our existence has been transmuted by it. This is what Mary shows us how to do. This process happens by the power of the Holy Spirit, who seeks to overshadow us as he did Mary as we attach ourselves to Christ by means of a spiritual umbilical cord that nourishes not him as the child growing within, but us as the spiritual mothers.
  • And this is an image of how the word is meant to be shared with others, how the tradition of the Gospel is passed on. The future Pope Benedict wrote about this in a great pre-papal book entitled in English Seek What Is Above. He wrote, “In Luke, Mary stands as the embodiment of the Church’s memory. She is alert, taking events in and inwardly pondering them. Thus Luke says [literally] that she ‘preserved them together’  in her heart, she ‘put them together’ and ‘held on to them.’ Mary compares the words and events of faith with the ongoing experience of her life and thus discovers the full human depth of each detail, which gradually fits into the total picture. In this way faith becomes understanding and so can be handed on to others: it is no longer a merely external word but is saturated with the experience of a life, translated into human terms; now it can be translated, in turn, into the lives of others. Thus Mary becomes a model for the Church’s mission, that is, that of being a dwelling place for the Word, preserving and keeping it safe in times of confusion, protecting it, as it were, from the elements. … So the process of fruitful transformation can take place in a twofold direction: she saturates the Word with her life, as it were, putting the sap and energy of her life at the Word’s disposal; but as a result, conversely, her life is permeated, enriched and deepened by the energies of the Word, which gives everything its meaning. First of all it is she who digests the Word, so to speak, transmuting it; but in doing so she herself, with her life, is in turn transmuted into the Word. Her life becomes word and meaning. That is how the gospel is handed on in the Church; indeed, it is how all spiritual and intellectual growth and maturity are handed on from one person to another and within mankind as a whole. It is the only way in which men and mankind can acquire depth and maturity. In other words, it is the only way to progress.”
  • One who lived this whole process of becoming impregnated with the word of God and being transmuted by it so that he might pass the Word on to others permeated and enriched by his own life was St. Lawrence of Brindisi, the great Capuchin Doctor of the Church whom we celebrate today. He was one who from his earliest days with extraordinary intelligence and an incredible memory such that he learned almost all of the modern European languages as well as the ancient ones used in the Bible, which he learned inside out in the original languages. But rather than allowing his intelligence to go proudly to his head, he humbly sought out God’s wisdom not as a thing to be known but a gift to be lived and nourished through prayer. As a six year old boy, he used to give powerful homilies to his family members and other parishioners on the meaning of Christ’s incarnation at Christmas time, something that points to the reality of what it means for the Word to become flesh and dwell among us, as in the impregnated Mary. Eventually after he had become a Capuchin Franciscan, he became a famous preacher of the need to repent and believe the Gospel, to cease disobeying and being to follow the will of God, first to Catholics in traditional mission and sermons, then to Protestants in Germany who had left during the Reformation and finally, at Pope Paul V’s request, to the Jews in the Jewish Ghetto in Rome. In all three circumstances, his enfleshment of the beauty of God’s word, his awe at God’s holy wisdom, and his radiance of the happiness that comes from walking in the Lord’s way brought many to profound conversion and to the fulfillment of faith through the Catholic Church. At the beginning of Mass today, we prayed to God the Father to grant us “that in the same spirit [of St. Lawrence], we may know what must be done and, through his intercession, bring it to completion.” That’s the way St. Lawrence lived the Gospel and wants to help us to do the same.
  • Today as we come forward to celebrate the Eucharist, we know that Jesus wants to make us every more his family, his kin, his mother and siblings, by strengthening all of us to receive his Word within like Mary and St. Lawrence, to let that Word grow so that it takes on our flesh, and to strengthen us to pass on that word courageous as a gift to others. And to strengthen us to do so, he gives us his own body and blood, with his humanity received from Mary, to help us relive her mystery in him.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 Ex 14:21—15:1

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea,
and the LORD swept the sea
with a strong east wind throughout the night
and so turned it into dry land.
When the water was thus divided,
the children of Israel marched into the midst of the sea on dry land,
with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.The Egyptians followed in pursuit;
all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and charioteers went after them
right into the midst of the sea.
In the night watch just before dawn
the LORD cast through the column of the fiery cloud
upon the Egyptian force a glance that threw it into a panic;
and he so clogged their chariot wheels
that they could hardly drive.
With that the Egyptians sounded the retreat before Israel,
because the LORD was fighting for them against the Egyptians.Then the LORD told Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea,
that the water may flow back upon the Egyptians,
upon their chariots and their charioteers.”
So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea,
and at dawn the sea flowed back to its normal depth.
The Egyptians were fleeing head on toward the sea,
when the LORD hurled them into its midst.
As the water flowed back,
it covered the chariots and the charioteers of Pharaoh’s whole army
that had followed the children of Israel into the sea.
Not a single one of them escaped.
But the children of Israel had marched on dry land
through the midst of the sea,
with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.
Thus the LORD saved Israel on that day
from the power of the Egyptians.
When Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore
and beheld the great power that the LORD
had shown against the Egyptians,
they feared the LORD and believed in him and in his servant Moses.Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD:I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.

Responsorial Psalm Exodus 15:8-9, 10 and 12, 17

R. (1b) Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
At the breath of your anger the waters piled up,
the flowing waters stood like a mound,
the flood waters congealed in the midst of the sea.
The enemy boasted, “I will pursue and overtake them;
I will divide the spoils and have my fill of them;
I will draw my sword; my hand shall despoil them!”
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
When your wind blew, the sea covered them;
like lead they sank in the mighty waters.
When you stretched out your right hand, the earth swallowed them!
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
And you brought them in and planted them on the mountain of your inheritance—
the place where you made your seat, O LORD,
the sanctuary, O LORD, which your hands established.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.

Alleluia Jn 14:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him
and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 12:46-50

While Jesus was speaking to the crowds,
his mother and his brothers appeared outside,
wishing to speak with him.
Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside,
asking to speak with you.”
But he said in reply to the one who told him,
“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?”
And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father
is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
Parting of the Red Sea