01 June, 2008 - IX Sunday of the year A
One beautiful Sunny Sunday morning recently, Father having just celebrated Mass at one place and was driving on to the next place when he spotted a farmer sitting on a baler in the field next to the road.
Recognizing the farmer as one of his parishioners, Father immediately pulled over and walked up to the fence. “Hey Bob”, He shouted, “It’s Sunday, shouldn’t you be sitting in church instead of sitting here on this baler?”
Bob slowly turned around and said “Well, Father I was just debating that point in my mind – whether or not it was better for me to be sitting here in the Sun on this baler and thinking about God or should I be sitting in church looking out the window and thinking about baling.”
Now, we all know that in this country you better make Hay while the sun shines or you could miss out on the precious second cut.
However, like Bob, we sometimes get our priorities mixed up.
Sometimes we forget what God requires of us and we tend to put our own needs ahead of God’s commandments.
What does the Lord our God require of us?
In the first reading from Deuteronomy, the Lord, through Moses, is telling us clearly what He the Lord requires of us.
I AM SETTING BEFORE YOU TODAY A BLESSING AND A CURSE.
What does the Lord our God require of us? The Bible tells us to fear the Lord our God …..
What do you think it means – to fear the Lord?
The Bible tells us that we fear the Lord our God by walking in all His ways, by loving Him and serving Him with all our hearts and souls and by keeping all His commandments and decrees. This is how we fear the Lord.
All of this is for our well-being – all of this for our eternal salvation!
The Lord wants us to put these words of His into hearts and souls, to bind them as a sign on our hands, to fix them as an emblem on our foreheads.
No human has ever lived who has walked in all His ways, loved God, served Him with all their heart and soul and kept His commandments like the one Human Being who is above all others save God Himself and that is Jesus’ Mother Mary.
She is the one who leads us to Her Son. She is the one whom God in His great mercy has given us as our adopted Mother to lead us Home. Mary Mother of Jesus – Mary Mother of God. Mary has the reputation of achieving what many believe is simply impossible.
The story is told that once upon a time, the Lord went walking through the streets of heaven, and He saw a lot of people who had no business being in heaven at all. So our Lord went to St. Peter who guarded the gates of heaven.
And the Lord said, "Simon Peter, I'm disappointed in you. There are people
here who shouldn't have been admitted, yet you let them in." "
Lord, it's not my fault. I had nothing to do with it" "Well, who let them in?" "I don't want to tell you, because I'm not sure how you will take it." "You should tell me. I have a right to know."
"All right, if you must know. I tell those folks they can't get in. But then they go around to the back door and your mother lets them in."
Now I don’t think that that is exactly how it happens but there is no doubt that through Mary’s intercession to her Divine Son on our behalf many souls have been saved.
When the Holy Spirit touched the womb of Mary two thousand years ago, the Virgin predicted, "All generations will call me blessed." She was absolutely right. Of all the women who have ever lived, the mother of Jesus Christ is the most celebrated, the most portrayed, the most honored in the naming of girl babies and churches. Even the Moslems honor her, strengthened by the fact she is mentioned thirty-four times in the Koran.
The late twentieth century has become the age of the Marian pilgrim¬age. Examples: Attendance at Lourdes has jumped ten percent to 5.5 mil¬lion annually. Many of these are people twenty-five or younger.
The young ones dance, sing, and praise out loud exuberantly. At Fatima, over 4.5 million pilgrims a year visit. In Czestochowa, Poland, the stream of pilgrims has increased to over five million a year. In Emmitsburg, Maryland, the number has suddenly doubled to over 500,000 a year at their national shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Most astonishing of all, over ten million people flocked to Guadalupe last year to pray to Our Lady.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us about Mary's role in the Church and the history of salvation.
In Mary we behold what the Church is already like during the pilgrimage of faith - and what the Church will become at the end of the journey. Mary is an icon of the Church as well as sign of hope and comfort for all of us.
The church rightly honors Mary with special devotion.
For many years, the late father Patrick Peyton preached the power of the Rosary under the motto "The Family That Prays Together Stays Together." His vibrant devotion to Mary inspired hundreds of thousands of families to turn to Mary to help them with family stability and the acquiring of family values.
The need for family devotion to Mary is greater today than ever. Each time we turn to Mary she brings us closer to Jesus. Two thousand years after the Nativity, the mother is Jesus is more beloved and powerful than ever.
Look again upon the face that most resembles the face of Christ. Only through Mary's brightness can you most prepare to see the face of Jesus.
Here with us today we have the Icon of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba (Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre) may not be as well known in our culture as Our Lady of Guadalupe.
But one can find Our Lady of Charity’s image in churches around the world.
A popular image of Our Lady of Charity includes a banner above her head with the Latin phrase “Mater Caritatis Fluctibus Maris Ambulavit” (Mother of Charity who walked on the road of stormy seas).
Since September, the Knights of Columbus have been spreading this devotion to Our Lady of Charity by bringing the Icon to various parishes. This is done to promote a return to the praying of the Rosary and other Marian devotions. This yearlong, rosary-centered event is being offered for the intentions of Pope Benedict XVI.
The story of Our Lady of Charity is a rather simple one. Like many other Marian apparitions, it occurred in a nameless place and involved ordinary people.
Around the year 1600, three boys were sent to gather salt needed to preserve the meat of the town’s slaughterhouse, which supplied food for the workers and inhabitants at the Spanish copper mines near Santiago, Cuba.
Two of the boys were native Indians and brothers, Rodrigo and Juan de Hoyos, and the third was a 10-year-old black slave, Juan Moreno.
On their way back to Santiago del Prado (modern El Cobre) and halfway across the Bay of Nipe, they encountered a fierce storm that threatened to destroy their frail boat.
Suddenly, the waters calmed. In the distance the boys saw a white bundle floating on a piece of wood that they mistook for a sea bird. In reality, it was a small statue of Mother Mary holding the infant Jesus in her left arm and a gold cross in her right. Inscribed on the wooden board were the words in Spanish “I am the Virgin of Charity”.
The youths brought the statue back to their village, where a chapel was built and the image venerated by all who heard the story. Much like Our Lady of Guadalupe for the Mayan Indians, Our Lady of Charity instantly became a pilgrimage site, a reminder for the underprivileged that their heavenly Mother cared and stood beside them.
As always Mary hears our prayers and is always ready to dispense the graces necessary so that we may always do the will of our Father in Heaven.
Today's Gospel from St. Matthew has Jesus clearly stating what is the will of His Father in heaven.
Jesus says, not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one, who does the will of my Father in heaven.
And, what would you say is the will of the Father in Heaven for you according to the Bible?
Our first clue is when Jesus warns us that at the end many will call Him Lord, Lord and claim that they prophesied in His name, and cast out demons in His name and did many deeds of power in His name.
In other words they worshipped God not as He would have them worship Him in Spirit and truth but rather they worship Him as they insist that He should be worshipped – they follow the false Shepherds who tell them what they want to hear rather than that which they need to hear.
But Jesus will declare to these people, I never knew you. Go away from Me, you evildoers.
As it says in 2 Timothy 2:19 The Lord knows those who are His. God cannot be deceived. What God requires is words plus deeds. There is only one proof of love and that is when we are faithfully obedient just as Mary was and is.
Jesus says, Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise person who built their house on rock.
The Rock is Christ! We read this in 1 Corinthians 3:11, For no other foundation can one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Then the rain of the flesh, the floods of the world, and the winds of the devil cannot harm us.
Whereas the foolish person who builds a house on sand, a person who follows the opinions of the world, a person who dissents from Church teaching in order to make God conform to their own way of thinking, that person is the one who hears the words of Jesus but, does not act on them in accordance with God’s will.
The rain, the floods, and the winds of the world will beat against that house and it will fall, and great, will be its fall!
The Catholic Church teaches what the apostles taught and what the Bible teaches:
That we are saved by grace alone and not by faith alone. Whatever was necessary to make up for human sin, God supplied Himself.
Our task, as those who receive God's unde¬served mercy, forgiveness, and love, is to accept God's free gift in faith just as Mary did.
We lay hold of God's gift of faith. This faith is a personal relationship of trust.
The test of this relationship is in how we live our daily life.
Faith without works is dead. With true faith we are building our house on rock.
When we come to God then and are justified (that is we enter a right relationship with God – and if we have sinned seriously – we can do this through the sacrament of reconciliation) – nothing preceding justification, whether it be works or faith, earns grace.
But then God in His great mercy, plants His love in our hearts and so we should live out our faith by doing acts of love.
Even though only God’s grace enables us to love others, these acts of love please Him, and He promises to reward these acts of love with eternal life.
Thus good works are meritorious. When we first come to God in faith, we have nothing in our hands to offer Him. Then He gives us the grace to obey His commandments.
We do not earn our salvation through good works but our faith in Christ puts us in a special grace filled relationship with God so that our obedience and love, combined with our faith, will be rewarded with eternal life.
As, we pray then, and we ask Mary to intercede for us, that we may do God’s will in our life and not our will in God’s life, let us remember that such prayer is prompted and assisted by the Holy Spirit.
The Bible says that no one can say “Jesus is Lord, unless they are under the influence of the Holy Spirit”.
To God the Father, through Jesus Christ His Son and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - the prayer of the Christian who is living and praying in accordance with God’s will - such prayer is always pleasing to God.
Because of this God knows what the Spirit means and such prayers are always pleasing to Him.
Moses spoke to the people and said “So, now Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you?
Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and His decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being.
The Baltimore Catechism sums all of this it up by telling us that God made us to Know Him, to Love Him, and to Serve Him in this world so that we might be happy with Him forever in the next.
We must therefore do just as Mary did – we must give our free assent to God’s Holy will in our lives – if we do this – then our eternal destination will be the same as Mary’s. We will rejoice with her and all the saints in heaven for all eternity.
Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre – Pray for us!
Deacon Bernad Ouellette