Doing God’s Will with Joyful Abandon, 3rd Tuesday (II), January 23, 2018

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Marianne Cope
January 23, 2018
2 Sam 6:12-15.17-19, Ps 24, Mk 3:31-35


To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today in the Gospel Jesus teaches us about what constitutes true familiarity with him. It’s not blood or genes, like Mary or his male and female cousins in today’s Gospel shared with him. We would say it’s also not merely his own blood flowing through us through our becoming one body with Him in Baptism. He says that his mother and brothers and sisters are “anyone who does the will of God.” This is, of course, what characterized the Blessed Mother above all, someone who par excellence heard the Word of God and let her entire life become a fiat in response to that word. It’s also what is supposed to characterize us. Jesus said that those who do his Father’s will will not merely be his spiritual siblings but also his spiritual mother. He doesn’t say “Father” because that is the principle of generation and he has one Father in eternity, something not added to in the least when he assumed human nature. But motherhood — in the mentality of Jesus’ day when it was believed that life came totally from the father and the mother just nursed the new life the dad inseminated within — was what nurtured, and Jesus was saying that we could nurture the life of Jesus by our own doing the will of the father. We could clearly do so for others, helping, as St. Paul did among so many early Christians, to bring Christ to birth in them. We could also mysteriously do so for Christ within us, conceiving him through our ears by faith, becoming “impregnated” with him, letting him grow so much within that we eventually must give him to the light, as the Spanish say, and share him with others. This is what St. Ambrose used to teach about how all of us can become mothers of Jesus according to the faith.
  • Doing the Father’s will can sometimes be arduous and against the grain. Jesus himself experienced this in the Garden of Gethsemane when he asked three times for the chalice of suffering to be taken away from him but prayed, “Not my will, but yours (Father) be done.” But for us marked by original sin, the contrast between God’s will and ours can sometimes be excruciating. Even and especially when it’s hard, it’s obviously right and just that we do it. But over the course of time, we hope to do so with enthusiasm and vigor. We see an expression of that in today’s first reading when David is bringing the Ark of the Covenant, the sign of God’s presence, into Jerusalem. He danced before the ark “with abandon.” Even though his wife, the daughter of Saul, would mock him for doing so, even though doubtless many others were too prim and proper to love the Lord with the abandon of David, he danced before the ark. He was rejoicing to do the Lord’s will and bring him into the Lord’s city. His witness should help us to overcome any hesitation or shame in doing the Lord’s will. The last time we met Jesus’ relatives was Saturday when they thought he was out of his mind. Today, as Jesus tells those same relatives, his mother and all of us, about his will that we do the Father’s will, we should not hesitate to be crazy in acting on those words!
  • Today we celebrate the life of someone who was crazy in this way, someone who did not just do the Lord’s will in following her vocation, but did so with abandon: St. Marianne Cope, one of our fellow New Yorkers. She was born in Germany but when she was one emigrated to Utica, NY, with her parents, who would have in the states nine younger children. She felt the strong yearnings of a vocation to religious life, but left school after eighth grade to work in a factory to support the family, which was reeling because her father was suffering dementia. After her father was called home by God and the younger siblings were old enough to be cared for by their mother, she was able to enter religious life, as a late vocation to the Sisters of St. Francis at age 24. She made up for the education she had missed, went to college and eventually became both a teacher and a principal. Her talent as an administrator became known and she helped to build two hospitals in the Syracuse area, serving as both a nurse and as an administrator. She was often criticized for her craziness and personal abandon in caring for “outcast” patients, like alcoholics, that no other hospitals would take. When she was 45 and Provincial Mother/Superior General, she received a letter from a Catholic priest asking for help managing hospitals and schools in Hawaii, and to help out with leprosy patients. Fifty other Congregations had gotten a similar letter and had said no. But the letter touched her heart. And, crazily, she herself wanted to be the first to go. “I am hungry for the work,” she said, “and I wish with all my heart to be one of the chosen ones, whose privilege it will be to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the souls of the poor Islanders…. I am not afraid of any disease, hence, it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned ‘lepers.’” She would prove to be a good daughter of St. Francis whose own care for a leper led to his conversion. She and six other sisters went to Honolulu, receiving those diagnosed with leprosy. Four years after her arrival, when Fr. Damien was approaching death on the island of Molokai, she responded to the plea for help, saying she “cheerfully” would accept the responsibility of the continuation of his work, which she did for 35 years until she died in 1918.
  • As we prepare now to “do this in memory of” Christ, to obey the Lord in doing his will, let us ask through St. Marianne’s intercession that we might do so with interior abandon and with hearts dancing with joy.

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1
2 SM 6:12B-15, 17-19

David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom
into the City of David amid festivities.
As soon as the bearers of the ark of the LORD had advanced six steps,
he sacrificed an ox and a fatling.
Then David, girt with a linen apron,
came dancing before the LORD with abandon,
as he and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD
with shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn.
The ark of the LORD was brought in and set in its place
within the tent David had pitched for it.
Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.
When he finished making these offerings,
he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts.
He then distributed among all the people,
to each man and each woman in the entire multitude of Israel,
a loaf of bread, a cut of roast meat, and a raisin cake.
With this, all the people left for their homes.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 24:7, 8, 9, 10

R. (8) Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may come in!
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in battle.
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may come in!
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!
Who is this king of glory?
The LORD of hosts; he is the king of glory.
R. Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

MK 3:31-35

The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house.
Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him.
A crowd seated around him told him,
“Your mother and your brothers and your sisters
are outside asking for you.”
But he said to them in reply,
“Who are my mother and my brothers?”
And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother.”