Here at Creighton University, in the Jesuit Gardens (behind Creighton Hall, formerly called the Administration Building), is a Marian grotto. Every morning, I try to arrive on campus a few minutes early so that I can visit the grotto before I head inside to get to work. It is a peaceful little corner of the campus, yet the surrounding trees and bushes teem with wildlife, from baby rabbits munching on blades of grass, to squirrels clamoring over to discover if that lump in your jacket pocket is something tasty. Proud cardinals sing boldly at the topmost limb of a nearby tree, and robins feed their demanding young just newly on the ground.
Though my photography leaves lots to be desired, here is what the grotto looks like in its full beauty:
I believe that today’s readings, both of which comment on the theme of evil, and especially that particular brand of evil done by schemers, have a special message relating to this grotto. Though I know that there are plenty of places where the rosary is said daily and still holds a special place in the hearts of the people, it could be said that Marian devotion is slowly going away, as many of our young people do not keep up the traditional solemnities. That is debatable, of course, but the point is this: Perhaps today, as I stand at this very grotto, which was built decades ago and has been diligently maintained ever since, Mary has something to teach me about evil in today’s world.
How do we deal with evil? How do we make sure that the schemers do not have the final word? In the first reading, the prophet speaks, “Behold, I am planning against this race an evil from which you shall not withdraw your necks . . .“ What? Using an “evil” to fight evil? That sounds like the inspiration for a good satire. How is it possible to turn evil upon itself?
Strangely enough, the answer lies in the grotto. Let’s look into it more closely at the statue of Mary:
Mary is meek, humble, with hands outstretched in acceptance. She is the absolute YES, the very definition of humility. She is unblemished in her passive acceptance of God’s Grace. So how could someone so very passive in her engagement with the world be a weapon against evil?
Let’s take a closer look:
What is that being crushed under her foot? A serpent? Not only a serpent, but THE serpent! The very symbol of evil, the powerful entity that dares defy the Kingliness of the Lord, the supreme antagonist of the eternal struggle of good over evil. This powerful, deadly, evil serpent is being crushed underfoot by Mary, the epitome of meekness and humility. It is in our very weakness, our identities as sinners, our humanity, that we become the ultimate weapon against evil.
All we have to do is accept our weakness and humility as inherently ours to bear.
To me, that is the satire that is being sung over the world today, as it has been sung over the world for centuries before: The evil schemers of the world may get their way. They may humiliate us, and rob us, and take advantage of our commitment to work for peace. But that is not the final word. Held within this grotto, in this quiet, peaceful corner pocket of Creighton’s campus, is the final word: He is risen. Death holds no bonds over us. Alleluia!
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