August 11, 2017

Christ the Cornerstone

Our archdiocese is called to missionary conversion

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of our faith, teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path. And may this light of faith always increase in us, until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!”
(“Lumen Fidei,” #60)

In a few days, on Tuesday, Aug. 15,

we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “Mary, the Mother of God,” is the patroness of the Diocese of Evansville, so my thoughts and prayers will be with my former diocese in a special way on this feast day.

We believe that Mary is both the mother of God and our mother. This Church teaching is a powerful example of what I call “the Catholic both/and.” On matters of great importance like this, we Catholics refuse to choose between one extreme or another—what I call “the either/or mentality.”

Long ago, the Church rejected the argument that Mary is simply the mother of Jesus’ humanity, that his divinity is not part of her motherhood. We believe that Jesus is both God and man. And with this affirmation comes a similar truth—that Mary is the mother of Jesus in both his divinity and his humanity.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of God and our mother, is the model for authentic Christian discipleship. Pope Francis tells us, “The Mother of our Lord is the perfect icon of faith; as Saint Elizabeth would say: ‘Blessed is she who believed’[Lk 1:45]” (“Lumen Fidei,” #58).

The Holy Father calls Mary an “icon of faith” because her entire life makes the abstract theological virtue of faith concrete and visible to us. Mary is blessed because she believed; she is blessed because she accepted God’s will for her (without fully understanding it); and she is blessed because she said “yes” when she was asked to sacrifice her whole life to God’s mysterious plan (“Lumen Fidei,  #58). As both virgin and Mother, Mary offers us a clear sign of both Christ’s divine sonship and his humanity.

Pope Francis reminds us that Mary was the culmination of a tradition of faith. In fact, the pope tells us, “In Mary, the Daughter of Zion, is fulfilled the long history of faith of the Old Testament, with its account of so many faithful women, beginning with Sarah: women who alongside the patriarchs, were those in whom God’s promise was fulfilled and new life flowered” (“Lumen Fidei,” #58). “Blessed are you among women,” we pray, using the words of St. Elizabeth. “And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.”

We Christians place all our faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ. We do not believe in Mary. We believe with Mary and the entire communion of saints living and deceased. “At the center of our faith,” Pope Francis teaches, “is the confession of Jesus, the Son of God, born of a woman, who brings us, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, to adoptions as sons and daughters [cf. Gal 4:4]” (“Lumen Fidei,” #59). Mary points the way to him. Both her life on Earth and her constant intercession from heaven show us how to believe—and how to put our faith into practice.

For the past 2,000 years, Christians have turned to Mary, the first disciple of Jesus Christ, for help in believing and in strengthening our belief. Her witness and her intercession “awaken in us a desire to follow in his footsteps, to go forth from our own land and to receive his promise” (“Lumen Fidei,” #60). Mary helps us be touched by the love of Christ and to touch him in return by our fidelity to his words and example. Mary helps us to completely give ourselves to Jesus through the kind of personal encounter with him that stirs our hearts and fills us with a holy zeal to follow him as missionary disciples without counting the cost.

The solemn feast day that we observe on Aug. 15 is a celebration of both Mary’s life on earth and her entrance into eternal life with her son, Jesus. This particular both/and affirms that Mary was sinless, and therefore did not experience death the way the rest of us do, but also that her assumption into heaven has made it possible for her to serve as an active advocate for all her children on Earth.

Let’s ask Mary to show us the way to her fully divine and fully human son. Let’s pray for the grace to follow her example, and to witness to both the humanity and the divinity of her son, Jesus. †

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