MAY FOR FATHERS, MOTHERS AND FAMILY
In May, it’s easy to think of family and thank God for the blessings we enjoy in family life. We began the month with the feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1.
Joseph was chosen to act as a father to Jesus on this earth, to care and provide for Jesus and Mary, to watch over them and love Mary and love Jesus with a father’s love. Joseph worked hard to support his family.
In his humanity, Jesus exercised human knowledge, which is limited. He would have to inquire for himself about things that can be known only from human experience. Joseph was there to teach him so that Jesus could “increase in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Lk. 2:52) Jesus learned about obedience from Joseph and Mary. Most importantly, Jesus learned from Joseph about being the son of a loving father. May St. Joseph help all fathers as they work hard to provide for their family and fulfill their role in the lives of those God has given to their care and love. St. John Paul II has entrusted the whole family mission to St. Joseph’s particular care.
In May, we celebrate Mothers’ Day. We thank God for our mothers and pray for them that they too may fulfill the wonderful role God has given them in family.
Mary, the Mother of God, is the perfect model of motherhood. Mary, full of grace, loved God and responded perfectly to all God asked of her. She trusted God completely, even when things were confusing or difficult for her. She loved Jesus and Joseph and continues to love all God’s children with a mother’s love.
In the month of May, we particularly delight to call upon Mary for her intercession and care. I hope all families are praying the Rosary daily together, inviting Mary’s intercession. This year, Pope Francis has asked that we “prolong for the whole month of May praying the Rosary for peace.” May Mary our Mother help all wives and mothers fulfill their wonderful roles.
In the Gospel for Ascension Sunday, we heard Jesus give the universal call or mission to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved …” (Mk. 16:15) Under this umbrella call or mission to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, the Church speaks of two specific Sacraments of mission: Matrimony and Holy Orders. Both “Holy Orders and Matrimony are directed towards the salvation of others, if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1534)
In May, may St. Joseph watch over all fathers. In May, may Mary, the Blessed Mother, watch over all mothers. In May, may God help all married couples and families joyfully live the mission God has given them: to help one’s spouse and the children God gives them to come to salvation in Jesus Christ and then go out to the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
One reason I love the Feast of the Ascension is because it helps us understand how, in God’s great plan, the Church is necessary for salvation. We know and believe that only Christ Jesus brings salvation. The Son of God becomes man and takes on our humanness. He laid down his life for us in love, dying on a cross; conquering sin, death and the devil. As the Son sent by the Father, only Jesus – God made man – could win this victory. Objective redemption of all humanity becomes a reality as the Father’s love-giving response to Jesus’ loving sacrifice is to raise him from the dead. At the Ascension, Jesus, in his whole being, divinity and humanity, ascends and takes his place at the right hand of the Father. As Jesus ascends and “returns to his Father,” his humanity is fully brought into the giving, receiving, re-giving cycle of love between the Father and the Son. Jesus’ prayer that the Father glorify him with the glory he had with the Father from the beginning (Jn. 17:5) is answered as the humanity – taken on by Jesus – at the Incarnation now shares in this glory. And so, there is established a “new creation” in Christ: “humanity in glory.” Jesus, now established at the right hand of the Father as Lord and Messiah, “firstborn of many brothers,” can now send the Holy Spirit “who proceeds from the Father and the Son.”
Redemption, Christ the Son of God, now in his glorified body sitting at the right hand of the Father, turns his face towards us for our salvation. He sends the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of our sins so that we, even now, can begin to live the glorified life – life in communion with God and one another. He respects our humanness and it is through his glorified humanity that he reaches out to us. How are we earthly people going to encounter the glorified Redeemer who has ascended to heaven and is invisible to us? We do so as he now makes his heavenly glorified bodiliness available to us by taking up earthly realities into his glorified saving activity. He uses the Church, making her the first sacrament, the earthly prolongation of his glorified body. The Church is the Body of Christ and Christ our Redeemer uses this reality as the means to encounter him. He uses the Church’s sacraments as true encounters with him so that through them he might give us the glory the Father give to him so that even now, we may be one with God and with one another.
So it was that St. Paul, who had not encountered the earthly Jesus in faith, was baptized. Christ has chosen the Church and her sacraments and life to be the means to make contact with him so that he might fill us with new life, eternal life, glorified life, until that day when even our mortal bodies, having passed through death, are assumed into heaven and are fully glorified and we enjoy the fullness of the life of heaven with God and all the saints. Yes, as taught by the Church Fathers and Vatican Council I too, “outside the Church there is no salvation” and by this we mean, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it: “all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body.” (CCC 846) May the Feast of the Ascension fill us with gratitude for Christ Jesus who shares with us the glory he enjoys with the Father and who will bring that glory to fullness for us one day.