May†18, 2011|The Long Island Catholic Vol. 50, No. 7 | BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY††
Last Saturday the Diocese of Rockville Centre gained 11 new permanent deacons. Ordained by me at the Cathedral of St. Agnes they will join the more than 250 permanent deacons in serving the parishes and institutions of our diocese. The next morning, the fourth Sunday of Easter, they along with the rest of the clergy who are committed to praying the Liturgy of the Hours ďfor and with the People of God,Ē read the following from the Book of Revelation: Then a great mysterious sign appeared in the sky. There was a woman whose dress was the sun and who had the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was soon to give birth and the pains and suffering of childbirth made her cry out.
This vision of St. John the Evangelist has been identified with Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer whom John took into her home after the death and resurrection of her Son who returned to the Father in glory. The vision of John calls attention to the dragon, a symbol of Satan, whose rage at Godís plan to save us drove him to do all he could to destroy the woman who was Godís chosen instrument to bring the Savior of us all into the world. Despite his best efforts, Satan lost that battle. Yet as John tells it, the dragon was furious with the woman, and went off to fight against the rest of her descendants, all those who obey Godís commandments and are faithful to the truth revealed by Jesus. And the dragon stood on the seashore.
There is much to ponder and pray over in this vision of St. John: the wonder of Godís loving plan to save us, the faithful witness of the humble Virgin of Nazareth, the example of her life as a model for all of us who are members of her Sonís Body, the Church, the relentless anger and rage of the Prince of Darkness against God and all He has created, the abiding and sobering truth that the devil, defeated in his quest to destroy the Mother of God, continues to stand on the seashore eager to attack all of us who seek to remain faithful to the truth revealed by Jesus.
All this is cause for us, in this month of May dedicated traditionally to Mary, to reflect on her role in the life of the world, the Church and all of us who are members of this community of communion. The more I read in the unfolding history of Godís relations with His chosen people, the more I am caught up in the wonder and the beauty of what God has done and how He has done it! The words of Paul keep coming back, in the fullness of time God sent His Son, born of a woman. Here is the answer, the true answer to what humanity is all about. There is a surface history of the world. That is the one of politics and warfare, of economics and finance, of philosophers and blackguards. It is a history that shows us all too often the dark side of the human heart and the destructive powers of the human mind and will. It is a history that offers sunbolts of hope and continued attempts by persons and groups to do good in the face of many obstacles.
But the real history of humankind is the history of the spirit which is evidenced in those moments when the goodness of the human heart conquers through love, when the commitment to care for one another brings forth fruits of compassion and care, solidarity and communion. These, however, need the strength and the help that comes from on high. They need the redemption of Jesus Christ. And we are the ones who have been given the gift of faith to recognize the truth that human dignity flourishes when the offer of life Jesus makes to us is accepted as gift and practiced as an opportunity.
In all this the believer can say Quis ut Deus! Who but God! And that is true. Only God can and does save us through His Son. But we who have been given this gift can recognize all the ways that this has been done and all those who were chosen as instruments to make this happen in the fullness of time.
So it is that we can also say Quis ut Maria! Who but Mary! She was necessary that God could do what he wanted to do for us. She was faithful. She never wavered from what her YES, her Fiat, entailed. She was compassionate. She knew the fragility of her own resources when faced with the call of God. This has made her ever understanding and ever eager to assist us in our fragility. She was always with her Son. This has given us the key to unlocking the question of how we can become what God has called us to be. We can be true disciples only by entering into life through the gate who is Jesus Christ, the good shepherd of us all.
And one could go on. The many titles of Mary that we pray whenever we say the Litany of Loreto are all means for us to discover who she is and thus who we can be in imitation of her. And all of them are summed up and brought home by two images of Mary that are so central to our understanding of Godís plan, his Sonís founding of the Church on the apostles and the gift of the Spirit that continues to guide the Church to be faithful in her belief and authentic in her teaching. The first is the icon of Mary at the foot of the cross, the silent, faithful witness of a motherís love transformed into a discipleís total trust and unbreakable hope. The second is the icon of Mary as the central figure in the midst of the apostles, at prayer with them and for them, when the Risen Christ fulfills his promise and the Holy Spirit descends on the disciples at the first Pentecost, the sealing of the Spirit that ever animates the Church.
These two icons of Mary are enough for us to contemplate and to let us be guided by her example, her prayer and her presence in our lives. These two icons tell us all we need to know about who we are and how we are to live. In this month of May, Mary, our mother, the mother of the Church, bids us to ďrecognize our dignity,Ē the dignity given us by Godís creative love and made whole by His Sonís redemptive action, a dignity we then are called to live out by our faithfulness to Christís message, His Churchís teaching in all our words, our actions, our hearts and our minds. May she who said YES to God and then lived that YES in total fidelity be with us as we honor her in this month of May.