Sunday, August 21, 2016

Trying to Enter

We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, as is fitting, because your faith flourishes ever more, and the love of every one of you for one another grows ever greater. Accordingly, we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God regarding your endurance and faith in all your persecutions and the afflictions you endure. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.  Matthew 23:13


From A Prayer For The Queenship Of The Blessed Virgin Mary
O Mary Immaculate Queen, look down upon this distressed and suffering world. Thou knows our misery and our weakness. O Thou who art our Mother, saving us in the hour of peril, have compassion on us in these days of great and heavy trial. Amen. 


The Church fathers offer up a study in contrasts today for the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. The chosen Gospel reading strikes me (IMHO) as an odd choice indeed by the Magisterium. 

The seven “woes” are directed against the scribes and Pharisees accusing them of the hypocrisy in the difference between their speech and action (Mt 23:3) and in demonstrations of piety that have no other purpose than to enhance their reputation as religious persons.

From the Assumption on August 15 through the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 15, we have a chance to focus on what we can learn from Mary about how to form our lives.  We mark the memorial of the fifth Glorious Mystery within the octave of the Assumption.  The memorial gives us pause to reflect instead on the different role that Mary of Nazareth plays in Sacred Scripture and in our faith life from that of the scribes and Pharisees.  The evangelists presented Mary as the Most Holy Virgin Mary – a model of perfection in each quality for the whole Church to follow:
  • Humble (Luke 1:48)
  • Obedient (Luke 1:38; 2:21-2, 27)
  • Pure (Mt. 1:18, 20, 23; Luke 1:27,34)
  • Prudent (Luke 2:19, 51)
  • Faithful (Luke 1:45; Jn 2:5)
  • Devout (Luke 1:46-7; Acts 1:14)
  • Poor (Luke 2:7)
  • Patient (John 19:25)
  • Merciful (Luke 1:39, 56)
  • Sorrowful (Luke 2:35)

During his Sunday homily for the 9 am Mass at the Church of the Nativity, Fr. Bill Korpi reminded many of us older Catholics about one of the first lessons we memorized in the Baltimore Catechism.  Technically, it was question 6.  The answer we recall foreshadowed the Cursillo tripod we would learn much later in life: “God made me to know Him (study), to love Him (piety), and to serve Him in this world (action), and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.” God was so committed to this path that God sent his only son to do exactly that.  Mary was the perfect disciple.  However, the Pharisees were the exact opposite of perfect disciples and this brought down the woes of the world on their own shoulders. Jesus existed to show us the way through the narrow gate.  The Pharisees instead, blocked us.  “Nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.” 

Humble and obedient Mary opens the narrow gate for our piety, study, and
action.  She wants to help us through.  How?  Well, Fr. Bill’s other enduringly memorable image of the Church recalls those amusement park signs about who could get on this best rides.  You had to be taller than a certain metric to get on.  Jesus, however, reminds us that we have to be like children to get into heaven.  Rather than waiting to grow up, Fr. Bill reminds us that to be like a child, most of us will have to get down on our knees to get through the narrow gate that Jesus and Mary are holding open for us.


Are you trying to enter?  If so, consider how (like Mary) you will help those who do not have the means to get through – like the children of Syria who are being terrorized, maimed and killed by their own leaders.

According to CRS, as Syria marks five years since the beginning of its brutal civil war, Catholic Relief Services has supported over one million people affected by the conflict.

“The scale of the suffering is devastating,” said Kevin Hartigan, CRS Regional Director for Europe and the Middle East, who has overseen the response for the past four years “but as Pope Francis reminds us, there are human faces behind the staggering statistics.  Each of the millions of displaced Syrians is an individual uprooted from a full life, a family member, a loved one.”
The war has led to the displacement of more than 11 million people. That’s more than half the country’s pre-war population. And that number continues to grow every day.

Syria’s neighboring countries—JordanLebanon, Turkey and Egypt—have reached a breaking point, with some 4.1 million refugees crossing their borders. Lebanon alone has more than 1.2 million refugees, the highest number per capita in the world.

The needs of Syrian refugees are basic: food, shelter, and medical care.  You can help with a gift through CRS and also by speaking up on behalf of these war refugees.

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