St. Ann

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2015/08/28 at 12:00 AM


Inside the Scrovegni Chapel in the city of Padua are some remarkable frescos painted by the Giotto, one of the fathers of the Italian Renaissance. Completed in 1305, the frescoes of the Scrovegni Chapel detail the lives of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Through 7 of these frescoes the story of how our Lady’s birth came about is explained.
The frescoes show us that the elderly Sts. Ann and Joachim endured a great deal of sufferingand shame for being childless, so much so that Joachim was even expelled from the Temple
and had to go live amongst the shepherds outside of Jerusalem.

But eventually both St. Ann and St. Joachim received a message from an angel that theywould have a daughter. After a joyful reunion at the Golden Gate of Jerusalem, which was
near to their home, they conceived and St. Ann gave birth to the Mother of our Savior.

Today, September 8th, is the day that we celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary –9 months, of course, after the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
While today’s celebration of our Lady’s birth is a rather low-ranking feast on the liturgicalcalendar, and therefore is suppressed in lieu of the Sunday Mass propers and readings, we cannot underestimate how important this feast is, for in Mary’s birth we see the light of hope just beginning to dawn for mankind who had been hopelessly trapped in the darkness of sin.
Truly, in Mary we are given not only the Mother of our Redeemer, but we are also given the perfect model for holiness and Christian discipleship. Of all who have followed Christ, none have followed Him as perfectly as His very own mother.
So as we celebrate her birth, we celebrate as well her role in the economy of salvation, her perfect union with Christ’s divine will, and her willingness to help by her prayers and intercession us poor sinners, so that we, too, might His disciples be.
Once again this Sunday we are given another Gospel passage in which our Lord sets the bar for discipleship. And as usual, He sets it high!
What we must understand, my brothers and sisters, is that no one stumbles into Heaven by accident or dumb luck. Going to Heaven requires that we be our Lord’s disciples, and this is not easy.
For today’s Gospel makes it clear that being Jesus’ disciple requires absolutely everything from us: not only all of our possessions, but even our relationships with loved ones.
These are hard words, indeed, but this message from our Lord should not trouble us greatly. Rather we should strive to understand His words in the context of the entire Gospel message.
In telling us that we must hate our loved ones, our Lord is teaching us today that our love forHim should have pride of place in our hearts! Therefore, we must avoid or expunge from our
lives anyone that keeps us from loving God as we should.

You see, my brothers and sisters, there should be a hierarchy of loves in our hearts, with thelove of God being our highest priority. This is the demand of discipleship, and this is the
proof that we truly are our Lord’s disciples.

But we must also be willing to avoid or expunge from our lives any material goods to whichwe might become overly attached.
In saying that we must renounce all of our possessions in order to be His disciple, Jesus is notsaying that absolute poverty is a prerequisite for discipleship.
But while God doesn’t demand strict poverty, He does demand detachment from worldly goods. Knowing how easily man becomes attached to created things, and how attachment of this type can be an obstacle to salvation, our Lord spoke strongly on this issue several times.
We see this especially in His interaction with the Rich Young Man, who went away sad at the prospect of giving up his many possessions (cf. Mt 19:16-22). And what does our Lord say to His disciples after that encounter?
He says: “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mt 19:23-24).
In other words, riches and the good things of this world can certainly be a blessing, but they can also be a hindrance to our salvation. And so if we are blessed with material wealth, we must be willing to part from our goods in order to love God as we should.
In fact, my brothers and sisters, our love for God must be so strong that we are willing to suffer anything, willing to carry any cross, out of love for God.
One of the great perspectives that Christianity provides to mankind that other religions don’t is that suffering – even in its most grievous and painful forms – doesn’t have to be a tragedy. Indeed, we believe that suffering is redemptive – if we unite it with Christ’s suffering.
Carrying our crosses is a powerful means of uniting ourselves with Jesus, of growing in virtue, and of making reparation for our sins. By willingly carrying our crosses, we share in our Lord’s work of redemption, and this is a great privilege.
Of course embracing suffering of any kind seems counter-intuitive, does it not? Certainly the notion of carrying one’s crosses is antithetical to the wisdom of the world.
But that’s the point of the first reading from the Book of Wisdom. This reading tells us that left to his own devices, man is limited in his capacity to find and understand true wisdom, which only comes from God.
Distracted by the cares of life, we are in need of the Holy Spirit if we are to walk in the ways of God. But we also need the Holy Spirit’s spouse: Mary, for she is the one who shows us just how beautiful Christian discipleship can be.
Sometimes when we hear Gospels like the one we have today, we may be tempted to either disbelieve the strict demands of discipleship, or to look upon our discipleship to Christ as a great and terrible burden.
But in our Lady we see that the radical detachment from others and from the things of this world that Jesus asks for is not only necessary but also beautiful and good.
Mary’s life was a life of virginal simplicity, unencumbered with material goods or unhealthy relationships. This enabled her to develop a true poverty of spirit by which she desired to possess only one thing: God Himself. So we can see in her how detachment from the things of this world helps us to be attached to the things of God.
While there can be no doubt that our Lady loved her parents, her other relatives, and dear St. Joseph with that gentle intensity that springs from genuine charity, there can also be no doubt that her greatest love was reserved for her Son.
But most importantly Mary proved her worth as a disciple by her willingness to suffer and to carry her crosses. And aside from our Lord Himself, no one suffered as much as she. Being perfectly united with Jesus, Mary suffered her own Passion right along with Him.
My brothers and sisters, true discipleship is costly. Our Lord demands much of us if we are to follow Him. But let us not be daunted or deterred by the demands of discipleship.
Instead, let us turn to our Lady for timely help. Let us place ourselves in her hands, and she will show us how best to love and follow her Son.
Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us!

8 September 2013

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio.
To enable the audio, lease go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

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