Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Tuesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary
October 7, 2014
Gal 1:13-24, Ps 139, Lk 10:38-42
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- The Gospel scene of the hospitality of Mary and Martha to Jesus in Bethany is a really good prism for us to understand the importance of the Rosary as we mark today the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Both Martha and Mary loved Jesus very much. As an expression of that love, Martha worked very hard to prepare a meal for him, something that was much more time-consuming in the ancient world without stoves, or refrigerators, or blenders or ready-made cooking supplies than it is today. She likely also cleaned her house, which, too, was much more challenging in the age before vacuum cleaners, running water, and so forth. It’s natural that she would have been exasperated doing all of this work while her sister Mary seemed to be doing nothing. After she complained to Jesus, however, Jesus corrected not Mary but Martha, telling her that she was anxious and concerned about many small things but only one was necessary. Mary had chosen the better part, the one thing necessary — Jesus himself — and it was not going to be taken away from her to focus on relatively less important things. What Mary grasped that Martha didn’t is that Jesus had come to their home primarily to feed and not to be fed, to serve rather than to be served, and it was Mary who grasped that and sat at his feet as he not only fed her with the nourishment of his word and presence but cleaned her interior house by his own purity.
- When we pray the Rosary, we sit not only with Mary of Bethany but Mary of Nazareth at the feet of Jesus, Mary’s Son, as we let him nourish, cleanse, illumine and strengthen us. We contemplate Jesus in all the mysteries of his life, from his conception in Mary’s womb, to his making John the Baptist leap in Elizabeth’s, to his birth and being adored, to his being lifted up in Simeon’s arms and described as a sign of contradiction, to his dazzling the scholars of the law in the temple, to his being baptized and mentioned as the beloved Son of the Father, to his elevating marriage to a sacrament in Cana, to his calling us to conversion in order to enter his kingdom, to his being transfigured as the Father called us to listen to him, to his instituting the great Sacrament of the Eucharist, to his sweating blood in agony, to his being scourged and crowned with thorns, to his carrying the Cross and dying on it, to his being raised from the dead, ascending into heaven, sending forth the Holy Spirit, raising his mother up to heaven and crowning her queen of saints. We ponder Jesus in all of these central episodes in his life an are helped to contemplate him in so many other scenes as well. We look to him as the one thing necessary, as the better part, and with his Mother Mary we make time for him, just like Mary of Bethany did.
- When we really ponder the mysteries of the Rosary instead of merely recite them, we’re changed. In seeing Jesus more intensely we begin to see ourselves more profoundly. The Second Vatican Council taught us 50 years ago that it’s only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that we can understand ourselves and our supreme vocation. It’s only by entering into the mystery of his self-giving love that we find ourselves. The Rosary is a school that not only helps us to understand Jesus but understand ourselves, particularly as we go through the joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious episodes of human life. In the Responsorial Psalm we said to him, “You have probed me and you know me, you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. My journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you are familiar. Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.” It’s through the Rosary that we enter into his own knowledge of us and are made capable of being guided by him “along the everlasting way.” We see a similar lesson in today’s first reading as St. Paul describes his conversion, how he went from someone who “persecuted the Church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it” to someone who would be a cause of joy and glory to the Church that “the one who was once persecuting us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” When we pray the Rosary and contemplate all of the mysteries of Jesus’ life and saving work from the perspective of our Lady, we begin to understand the conversion asked of us so that we, too, may live these mysteries and come, like Paul, to enflesh them in life and share in Jesus’ eternal glory.
- That leads us to the second thing we learn from examining the Rosary from the perspective of Bethany. We learn how to serve God and others like Martha but without losing Mary’s contemplative spirit. We’re able to work not only for Jesus but with Jesus. St. John Paul II pondered this truth in his great apostolic exhortation Rosarium Virginis Mariae, released 12 years ago, which I recommend you to re-read today if you can. The more we contemplate Christ in the mysteries of the Rosary the more we’re able to see Christ in others and serve them as contemplatives in the midst of the world. “When prayed well in a truly meditative way,” St. John Paul wrote, “the Rosary leads to an encounter with Christ in his mysteries and so cannot fail to draw attention to the face of Christ in others, especially in the most afflicted. How could one possibly contemplate the mystery of the Child of Bethlehem, in the joyful mysteries, without experiencing the desire to welcome, defend and promote life, and to shoulder the burdens of suffering children all over the world? How could one possibly follow in the footsteps of Christ the Revealer, in the mysteries of light, without resolving to bear witness to his ‘Beatitudes’ in daily life? And how could one contemplate Christ carrying the Cross and Christ Crucified, without feeling the need to act as a ‘Simon of Cyrene’ for our brothers and sisters weighed down by grief or crushed by despair? Finally, how could one possibly gaze upon the glory of the Risen Christ or of Mary Queen of Heaven, without yearning to make this world more beautiful, more just, more closely conformed to God’s plan?” The Rosary helps us to see and serve Jesus in others and to help us not only to live in his kingdom but help his kingdom come. In receiving him in our interior Bethany, we learn how to try to make the whole world a Bethany.
- That’s why it’s so important for us to pray the Rosary and to help others to pray the Rosary with us. Last July, he said, pondering the example of Martha and Mary, “Be both contemplatives and missionaries. Always keep Our Lady with you and please pray the Rosary…. Do not neglect it! Always keep Our Lady with you at home, as did the Apostle John. May she always accompany you and keep you.” He added a year ago yesterday, “October is also the month of the Rosary. … Let us join spiritually together in this act of trust in our Mother, and let us receive from her hands the crown of the Rosary: The Rosary is a school of prayer, the Rosary is a school of faith!” St. John Paul II urged us to enter into that school as a family of faith, both in the domestic church at home and in the parish church. “The Rosary is, and always has been, a prayer of and for the family. At one time this prayer was particularly dear to Christian families, and it certainly brought them closer together. It is important not to lose this precious inheritance. We need to return to the practice of family prayer and prayer for families, continuing to use the Rosary. … The family that prays together stays together. The Holy Rosary, by age-old tradition, has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together. Individual family members, in turning their eyes towards Jesus, also regain the ability to look one another in the eye, to communicate, to show solidarity, to forgive one another and to see their covenant of love renewed in the Spirit of God. Many of the problems facing contemporary families, especially in economically developed societies, result from their increasing difficulty in communicating. Families seldom manage to come together, and the rare occasions when they do are often taken up with watching television. To return to the recitation of the family Rosary means filling daily life with very different images, images of the mystery of salvation: the image of the Redeemer, the image of his most Blessed Mother. The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the centre, they share his joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in his hands, they draw from him the hope and the strength to go on.”
- I’d like to finish with two thoughts. The first is about the Rosary and the Mass. In many Churches with beautiful stained glass windows, like St. Anthony of Padua in New Bedford where I was pastor, the stained glass windows were all of the mysteries of the Rosary. I used to love to ask people whether they noticed the pattern of what was depicted and, once they did, why out of all possible Gospel scenes that could have been portrayed, the mysteries of the Rosary were chosen. Sometimes senior citizens would say that that was because everybody used to pray the Rosary during Mass when the liturgy used to be celebrated in Latin. That’s not the reason! It’s because the Rosary has always been viewed as a “compendium of the Gospel,” a summary of the mysteries of our faith. In contemplating the Blessed Fruit of Mary’s womb in the mysteries of the Rosary, we’re made more apt to hear him speaking to us in the Gospel of the Mass and to beholding him under the appearances of bread and wine on the altar. Praying the Rosary well is a great preparation for the celebration of the Mass and a means to help us link all the mysteries and events and work of our life to what the Blessed Fruit of Mary’s womb is doing for us on the altar.
- The second thought is the link between the Rosary and heaven. I’ve always been very moved by the way Michelangelo depicts the importance of the Rosary in his famous Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. Jesus is seated on his throne in the very act of judgment. To his left at the bottom, souls are being dragged downward toward hell because of their definitive self-exclusion from his kingdom. To his right at the bottom, however, souls are being lifted upward toward heaven. And the means by which many of them are being exalted is through the “life-line” of the Holy Rosary, being held by angels and saints and grasped onto by souls, centuries before we had ever witnessed the first helicopter rescues with the help of lifelines. It’s the Rosary that helps us to unite ourselves to Christ in the pilgrimage from the joy of our birth, to the stages of illumination particularly in the sacraments (like baptism, confession, marriage and the Eucharist, all of which are pondered in the Luminous Mysteries), through the sorrows our own suffering, passion and death, to our incorporation God willing into Jesus’ own resurrection and Mary’s assumption into heaven.
- Today we come here to sit at the feet of Jesus in the Mass, to listen to him and be fed by him, as our one thing necessary and the part better than all other parts of life combined. We’re strengthened by him here to go out and serve him and others with the diligence of Martha and the contemplative heart of Mary of Bethany and Mary of Nazareth. And we’re offered a lifeline of the compendium of the Gospel to lift us every upward as we pray together with our parish family and our families at home in the school of Mary so that together with her we may contemplate the Blessed Fruit of her womb in the mysteries of the Ascension, Assumption and Coronation with a “glory” be that will never cease!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
You heard of my former way of life in Judaism,
how I persecuted the Church of God beyond measure
and tried to destroy it,
and progressed in Judaism
beyond many of my contemporaries among my race,
since I was even more a zealot for my ancestral traditions.
But when he, who from my mother’s womb had set me apart
and called me through his grace,
was pleased to reveal his Son to me,
so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles,
I did not immediately consult flesh and blood,
nor did I go up to Jerusalem
to those who were Apostles before me;
rather, I went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus.Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas
and remained with him for fifteen days.
But I did not see any other of the Apostles,
only James the brother of the Lord.
(As to what I am writing to you, behold,
before God, I am not lying.)
Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.
And I was unknown personally to the churches of Judea
that are in Christ;
they only kept hearing that “the one who once was persecuting us
is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”
So they glorified God because of me.
ps 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15
O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works.
R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
My soul also you knew full well;
nor was my frame unknown to you
When I was made in secret,
when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.
R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”