Friday, April 7, 2023

Imitating the Heart of Maria: Homily for Holy Saturday 2023

Ad Imaginem Dei: Our Lady of Sorrows, The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary
The Seven Sorrows of Mary
from the Prayer Book of Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg, Simon Bening, c.1525-1530,
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum.

My dear brothers and sisters,

The sun has set and Good Friday is over, Saturday has begun, the body of Our Lord has been buried and with that we enter into the silence of Holy Saturday. Our God is dead, but he continues his tasks. Even now He is working, making the journey into Hell and breaking down its doors to liberate those who have been waiting for Him since the beginning of time. But until He is Resurrected, we have to wait, in silence, and in patience.

How do we understand this day, Holy Saturday? In many ways, for those of us who await the second coming of Our Lord, Holy Saturday is the rest of our lives. The silence, the waiting, and the patience of Holy Saturday should mark our daily lives.

In this task, we have a great example in Maria, the mother of Our Lord. And so, let us turn to Maria, and in particular to Her sacred heart to understand how we should pass the next day, and the rest of our days until we are called to justice in the court of Her Son.

Just imagine Her plight, Her only son has been killed, there may be the promise of the Resurrection, which She may faintly understand, but until then She has to live with the memories of this day. But this is what She does, and She does so, patiently. And we should remember that She has been prepared for this moment since the time She said yes to the angel Gabriel at the time of the Annunciation.

The first insight we have into Her heart is Her response to the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). We say this phrase so often, at least once a day if we have the habit of praying the Angelus – and if we don’t we should develop the habit – and every time I say it I have to confess that I am moved by Her committment “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, be it done unto me, according to thy word,” and I pray for the grace to have a heart like that of Maria.

These words articulate for us the basic nature of Our Lady’s Heart, a heart of a servant who allows for the word of God to do its work. Her own will counts for nothing.

I would like us to return to the reading, one of my favourites, which we heard on Palm Sunday, from St. Paul’s letter to the Phillipians (2:8):

he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

If Christ humbled himself and became obedient, so did Maria. She humbled herself, and became obedient. Let us remember that it wasn’t God the Father alone who had a claim on Jesus. Maria had a similar claim on him. God the Son’s flesh was her flesh, and yet She stood silently resolute while Jesus entered into His Passion and ascended the cross for us – for us, ingrates who do not merit anyone to die for us, least of all the Son of God.

To parents Maria’s heart offers a lesson; train your children to be obedient to the Word of God and the movement of the Spirit in their heart. This is what Maria did. True, Jesus was the Son of God and God the Father spoke to him directly, but She provided him with the motherly discipline when He most required it, in His infancy. And so, my dear parents, cultivate in your hearts, and the hearts of your children, the heart of Maria. Silence your desires for them, or rather, desire for them not wealth and fame and power, but a humble, contrite heart. A heart that does what God wants. And remember that while God wants us to be successful in our lives, to shine, he wants that this happen without our betraying His Son who died on the cross to redeem us from sin and death.

What else can the heart of Maria teach us? There are two lines in the gospel according to Luke that tell us something about Her heart. When the shepherds came to adore Her newly born son, we hear from St. Luke that “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). Later, when She heard the elders in the Temple praise Her son She “treasured all these things in her heart” (Lk 2: 51).

She pondered, and She treasured. Two attitudes that mark the heart of Maria.

In the first place She pondered. She reflected on the things reported by the shepherds and the things they said about Her son. Too often in our lives we are too busy responding to things. If someone hurts us, instantly we hit back. I am also very often guilty of this sin. Let us imitate Maria in not responding immediately, especially not when we are angry. Give it some time, a few days if necessary. This is the spirit of Holy Saturday, we wait, we wait in patience, we wait patiently without words. We simply wait silently and reflect.

The other virtue we learn from St. Luke’s gospel is that Maria treasured these things in Her heart. Remember that this treasuring happens after Her son has simply disappeared. He has not told His parents that He will stay back in Jerusalem, He simply decides to stay back. But She treasures what comes after all of the tension and stress that she would have had to bear until She found him.

Can we too, therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, treasure what comes to us – whether we like it or not? Treasure not just the joys and the happiness that God gives us, but the illnesses we suffer, the hurts we are given. Jesus kissed his Cross, His mother would have also kissed His cross as She stood beside it. Shall we not do the same?

I now have two requests from you. The first to join me in slowly saying the Hail Mary, valuing each word of this prayer; and the second, after our common prayer, as we go to venerate the image of Our Lord and His Mother, let us do this in as much silence as we can, we as ponder and treasure the gifts that the Lord has given us.

Hail, Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. 

(A version of this sermon was first preached in Concanim at the conclusion of the conclusion of the seventh Santo Passo at the parish church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Aldona on 7 April 2023).

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