Mary invites us to be bearers of the Gospel, men and women of hope
We have started a new liturgical year
and we are preparing to celebrate the feast of Christmas. Living the
mystery of Christmas means understanding the meaning of life. In today's
society many people are confused and wander around aimlessly. Today
it is easy to be deceived and to go astray, taking wrong turns or living
in situations of suffering and slavery from which we cannot escape.
Our Lady, carrying the Son of God in her womb with ineffable love and
giving him to mankind in the silence of the night of Christmas, teaches
us that only through prayer can we understand who we are and where we
are going. In prayer we find the light and strength we need to be witnesses,
bringing the light, hope and love of the Gospel to those who have lost
their way. Our Lady wants to save all her children, but she can do so
only with us and through us, through our prayer and openness to God's
will. Mary Help of Christians is close to us and accompanies us day
by day, always interceding for us. With Mary, in the silence of prayer
and meditation, we journey towards Christmas and prepare our hearts
to be a fitting cradle where the Child Jesus can lie.
mihi anima, cetera tolle
Congress of Mary Help of Christians
4. The parents and the child, the temple and the law - Fr Roberto Carelli
The church, as the term itself indicates, ("ecclesia" means calling, invitation, convocation, from the Greek ek-kaleo, meaning "call from"), is the place where we gather as the family of God and learn to be family, the place where familiarity with God is revealed as the foundation and fulfillment, healing and maturation of our family relationships. The houses of Mary, in particular, perform this mission well, because that is where the Mother is, the one who gave birth to the Son of God and taught him to be human. She now teaches us humans to live as children of God. She performs this task well because she is full of grace and mediatrix of grace. She is the first and highest of all creatures. She is present in the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word as a mother, she is the first of all created beings. She is the Immaculate Mother of Sorrows, and the mystical dawn of Redemption; Assumed into heaven at the right hand of her Son, she is the glorious woman, model and goal of the Church. Therefore, as once she was the paradise of God on earth, she is now the Queen of Heaven. She lives in total familiarity with God and with mankind. She teaches us how to enter into famliairty with God in a way no other mother could.
Continuing our jurney "from the house of Mary to our homes," as soon as we come to the school of the Gospel, our mind goes to the place where God's "yes" to mankind and mankind's "yes" to God were spoken in unison for the first time, creating the new and everlasting covenant of love between God and mankind that is at the heart of the desire and design of God. From there the mind goes to the silence and humility of the family of Nazareth, where the good news was announced to Mary and where Jesus was brought up. Then it goes to Bethlehem where, to the amazement of the angels, the shepherds and the wise men, the Son of God was welcomed as a son of man in the care of Mary and the custody of Joseph. Next it goes to the temple of Jerusalem, where Jesus' parents experienced in a new way the mystery of the Son, whose roots are not only found in the house of David and in Mary's womb, but also in heaven, in the heart of the Father.
But perhaps the episode that exemplifies best the worship of God as a school of humanity is the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2,22-40). There light is shed on the mystery of the family. We see the intertwining of generations and vocations, where human words and gestures mingle with the sacred rites and the divine prophecies. Together they realize the heavenly plan of our earthly life. There we see the Son with his parents and ancestors, presented as a young family to the priests and there we meet two consecrated perons, a man and a woman, each with their specific vocation. We witness there a pilgrimage, a journey, at the centre of which there is an offering and a sacrifice. Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem, to present him in the Temple and they return to Nazareth, where "the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favour of God was upon him "(v. 40). Here we learn that the fruit of sacrifice, the central act of worship and the heart of family ties, is happiness and fruitfulness. When we offer ourselves to God, God offers himself to us. When we present to God all that we recognize as belonging to him, he pays us back with the gift of his Son, enabling us to make our lives a sacrifice pleasing to him.
We will come back again and again with different perspectives to this Gospel story which is so rich and fascinating. The journey of grace that is realized in the pilgrimage of the Holy Family of Nazareth to Jerusalem and back gives us the opportunity to reflect on the first rule of the bonds of love in church and family. They are always a communion of persons, a unity of differences, a mutual but unequal enrichment. It is worth emphasizing this because our culture sees man or woman only as an individual. It confuses freedom and arbitrariness, and confuses nature with spontaneity, under the pretext of parity and equality. It devalues every religious constraint (of its nature vertical) and weakens all family ties (which are differentiated by nature). We must therefore make it clear that all people have the same dignity, but this does not mean that they are the same in terms of equality and parity. These are abstract and formal concepts, incapable of honouring the wonderful variety and originality of the human person created by God and for God. This means that no form of love and no level of dialogue are helped by overlooking and denying the differences. The originality of different peoples cannot be lost in globalization. Not every bond of affection can be called "family". Man and woman are not interchangeable but complementary, and what is masculine or feminine is not the object of choice or preference, but a gift to be welcomed and shared.
The crisis regarding family values is
not only moral, but anthropological. It concerns not only human behaviour
but the very vision of the human person. Pope Francis said with simplicity,
clarity and force: "the family is an anthropological fact. We cannot
qualify it with concepts of an ideological nature, which prevail at
a particular moment of history and then disappear. We cannot speak of
a conservative family or a progressive family: the family is family!"
It must return to being, as the Cardinals said in the Synod of the family,
the "first school of humanity", the "school of love"
and "school of communion", "the place where relationships
are learned" where young people learn to build meaningful relationships
that will help the development of the person and his or her capacity
for self-giving." "It is the irreplaceable forum"- as
Pope Francis says in the Apostolic Letter Evangelii Gaudium -"where
we learn to live with difference and to belong to others." We need
to rediscover the meaning of differences be they sexual, family or cultural,
and to understand what is involved in giving and receiving. We need
to know what is holy and noble and what is miserable and abject, what
is unnatural, natural or supernatural. We need above all, in the light
of the Word, to give value to all that corresponds to the "yes"
of Jesus and Mary: '"obedience of faith", "submission"
to God and his Law, docility to whoever precedes us or presides over
us in his name. Here is the heart of true freedom! Most of all, it is
crucial to internalize the profound logic of the Gospel: that the Lord
has become a Servant, that Life comes from his death, that the great
become small and that true greatness belongs to the little ones, that
life is svaed by losing it and that giving one's life is the way to
1. When the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses - The action of Mary and Joseph is driven by the desire to fulfil the Law of God. Luke repeats this several times. The Holy Family submitted to the Law! As Congar says, this applies especially to the Mother: "Mary is purified. Even though she is the pearl and the glory of Israel, she submits humbly to the law of the Temple, which is devoid of the ark of testimony, while she herself is the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Ark of the New Covenant." And if Mary observes the Law, it is because Jesus also observes it., " He is redeemed in accordance with the law of Moses, yet he is the Redeemer, not only of Israel but of the world. He is presented in the Temple even though he is greater than the Temple. He is the one who sanctifies the temple and every offering to be made to God." Joseph, for his part, appears as the humble guardian of the Mother and her Son. He is at their service: Luke also refers to this several times in his gospel, always presenting "the Child and his Mother" together while speaking about "their purification". That refers to her privilege of intimacy with Jesus, and also alludes to their common destiny of the cross. By addressing the Mother alone - as Galot observes - Simeon wanted to indicate that she alone, unlike Joseph, would be involved in the tragic fate of the Messiah. The words that follow are unequivocal: "as for you, a sword will pierce your own soul."
2. They brought the Child to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord - Jesus is Lord and God but because of his status as a child and his mission as Redeemer "he had to become in all things like his brothers ... in order to atone for the sins of the people". (Heb 2:17), and he submitted to the Law. Jesus does not go to the temple, he is brought there, and for now he does not offer himself but he is offered! As Son he is not author of his own life but he receives them. Indeed, it applies even more dramatically to him who became Lord, not only of his people, but of all nations, who became Servant before submitting first to to the law and then to the Cross. Galot observes: "The redemption of the firstborn was justified by the history of the Jewish people. The gesture of the presentation of Jesus has to take on a more universal horizon. He was destined by God to be a light of the Gentiles but had to go through a particular condition of humiliation." However, between parents and child, submission and respect are mutual. The law did not require that the first-born be brought to Jerusalem, but only that the ransom be paid to any priest. Mary and Joseph still did not understand everything. Indeed, they were amazed at what was said of Jesus. By presenting Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem, they show the extent to which consider their child as God's property.
3. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother - It is significant that the parents bring the offering, but Simeon and Anna are the ones who give meaning and depth to the gesture, and widen the scope of the thanksgiving: "Lord, now let your servant go in peace ... " and the offering: " He is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, a sign of contradiction ...". In fact, it is after the declaration of Simeon and the intervention of the prophetess Anna that Luke mentions the fact that Mary and Joseph fulfilled the requirements of the law. So even Joseph and Mary, the people most involved in the event, depend on the wisdom of two elderly consecrated persons. Unlike the younger couple who are more immersed in the present, they "have the longer view" looking back to the past and forward to the future, so much so that his parents "marvelled at what was said about him." On the other hand, the wisdom of the elderly man and woman draws on the gift that the young parents had received and their ritual gesture in not keeping that gift for themselves but offering him to God. We are struck by the greatness and humility of Simeon and Anna! "In them" - Congar says - "is summed up all the waiting of Israel, which prophetically is ready to be overtaken and give way to reality." Here we see the two-way obedience that comes from love: the expectation of Anna and Simeon is accomplished thanks to the welcome they offered to Mary and Joseph, and its full messianic significance is seen in the light of their prophecy.
4. Anna began to parise God and to speak
about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem
- Mary offered the Child and received the word of Simeon, while Joseph
stood guard in silence. Simeon blessed and prophesied, while Anna praised
and gave witness. Man and woman serve the Lord in different ways. Adrienne
von Speyr writes: "Simeon understamds that an act of mediation
is necessary between God and men, and that this role belongs to the
Mother alone. She alone is so pure as not to put obstacles in her relationship
with the Son, nor in her relationship with mankind." The apostles
come later and must be purified and confirmed. On the other hand, Mary
received a word from Simeon - a word that concerns her intimately -
"The mother is not given the task of revelation, something that
never involves a woman. Hers is a different role. She gave birth to
the Son who is the Word of God. She received the Word in the form of
the words of the Angel and in the form of the Son himself. And ever
after woman will be more attentive in hearing and receiving the words
of God." It is one thing to accept the Word in the heart and in
the body, and another to proclaim it in the mission of the apostolic
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