June 25, 2022
by Eileen Burke-Sullivan
Creighton University's Mission and Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 376/573

Lamentations 2:2, 10-14, 18-19
Psalm 74:1b-2, 3-5, 6-7, 20-21
Luke 2:41-51

Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Collect Prayer for this Week

Today’s feast, like several other feasts that are paired together and referred to as “liturgical diptychs”, offers a reflection on Mary as the characteristic Church – she who is wounded, even seriously harmed, when her members fail in their mission (so the first reading from Lamentations challenges us).  The theme of this diptych of liturgical feasts is the Love that God has for us through Christ (Sacred Heart) and the love the Church responds with for Christ and the Father (Immaculate Heart).

Such love on the Church’s part is characterized by deep reflection on and obedience to God’s desires for our own lives and for creation, which are not easily discovered in some situations. To bring this into focus, the Church presents Luke’s account of the very human story of Mary and Joseph taking Jesus to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Passover every year. At the age of 12 (when a Jewish boy “comes of age”) they again do what is the custom and complete the days of the celebration.  It is helpful to know that Passover is the founding feast of the Jewish faith, just as the Triduum becomes the Founding Feast of Christianity, this has some theological weight in Luke’s telling of this story. But for us the very human experience narrated gives us a basic message of the feast to pray with.

There are quite a number of friends and neighbors going up to Jerusalem apparently and the city itself is overrun with visitors and pilgrims.  In this chaos one rather young adolescent can easily become lost. When Mary and Joseph start back, they assume that Jesus is with the group they are traveling with, until the end of the first day when they look for him.   

When I was a child, my parents traveled with extended family from our home in Wyoming to Kansas City for a wedding.  We were so many that we “caravanned in three cars, stopping at the same gas stations to fill up, restaurants to eat and so forth.  On one of these stops, my younger brother was left at a gas station when we pulled out, the three sets of parents assuming that he was in one of the cars.  When we then stopped later in the day for lunch or dinner, it was discovered that he was not with us.  Frantically my parents left us all together and drove back some miles to the gas station and found him with a highway patrolman and the gas station owner debating what to do.  I will never forget how upset my parents were over this incident – terribly frightened and feeling guilty for not paying more attention (after all there were only 14 children in the crowded cars).  Now Tom did not indicate that he stayed at the gas station intentionally, nor that he had to be about his father’s business as Jesus did, but none-the-less the experience stayed in my mother’s memory all her life.  Shortly before her death forty or more years later she was able to describe the terrible fear and loss that this event occasioned for her and continued to weigh in her heart even to that time, what it had meant.

Based on the memory of this very human experience that I was part of, I have never had trouble imagining how Mary and Joseph might have felt.  What must have stunned them, when they found him in the Temple in Jerusalem, was his calm assumption that they would understand and accept what he was doing by not going back with the family.

Seemingly, for Mary – and perhaps Joseph as well – Jesus’ calm authority both as he spoke to the Rabbis in the Temple and to his parents that he must be in his Father’s house and thus accomplishing his Father’s will, was a shock.  One might assume, though it is unsaid, that they were confused, dismayed and even angry – even while they were relieved and grateful.  This tremendous mix of internal responses was a cause for Mary to “ponder all these things in her heart.”  In other words, she had to discern, to think about and pray about this event (along with others) to begin to understand something of what the Angel Gabriel had said to her about who Jesus was and is.

So must the whole Church ponder in our hearts what it is that Jesus is asking of us through the signs of the times.  Through the confusions and conflicts of our day.  Through the divisions and distortions of certitude that have been too easy at other times in Christian life.

How do we know how to love God, which is the central work of the Church, and the dilemma of our day?  To love means to know and follow the Divine Will – which is EVER NEW and constantly revealed anew in the signs of the times? 

We can be faithful only by discerning God’s desire and seeking to follow it at whatever personal cost.  To do that we must ponder in our hearts, prayerfully listening and weighing events, attentively guided by the Spirit discovering anew what God’s Will is for each of us and for all of us together.  Mary stands today as the perfect expression of the Church – attentive, loving, patient, occasionally confused, sometimes anxious, but eager to be faithful to the love she has been given.  As members of Christ’s Body, the Church, we ponder with Mary all these things in our hearts and act as faithfully as we can in love.

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