First Reading: Genesis 3:9-15,20
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 86(87)
Gospel Reading: John 19:25-34
Owing to her remarkable importance in the life of the Church, which cannot be overemphasized, Pope Francis decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, ‘Mother of the Church’ be inserted into the Roman Calendar on the Monday after Pentecost (also known as Whit Monday) and to be celebrated every year. The decree was signed on 11 February 2018 (the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, at the 160th anniversary of the Lourdes Apparitions) and issued on 3 March 2018. By declaring that this feast be celebrated, the Holy Father acknowledges that devotion to Mary, as Mother of the Church is a very ancient tradition. Coming on the day after the feast of Pentecost reminds us that Mary was present with the disciples at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples. The key to understanding this reality lies in the recognition of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the New Eve who undid the effects of the Old Eve, considered as the mother of all who live.
The picture of the old Eve is reflected in today’s first reading. Here, we see the origin of sin in the world through the first man and woman. Apparently, the woman yielded to the temptation of the ‘serpent’ and eventually lured her husband to do likewise. Following this, God cursed the ‘serpent,’ and prophesies the coming of the Saviour (New Adam) through a woman (New Eve), saying: “I will make you enemies of each other: you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. It will crush your head, and you will strike its heel” This is known as the “Protoevangelium,” a compound word of two Greek words, ‘protos’ meaning ‘first’ and ‘evangelion’ meaning “good news” or “gospel”. Thus the protevanglium in Genesis 3:15 is commonly referred to as the first mention of the good news of salvation in the Bible. Here, the images of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Seed, Jesus Christ are captured. At the end of today’s reading, we are told that the man named his wife ‘Eve’ because she was the mother of all those who live.
Fulfilling the prophecy made by God in the first reading above, the Blessed Virgin Mary cooperated with the divine plan through her “Yes” to God’s request, enabling the Saviour to be born as Man. In today’s gospel reading, we see the New Adam on the cross, undoing the effects of sin and evil through his death. He was not alone, the New Eve was also by his side cooperating with him and sharing in his sufferings. Just before his death, the New Adam did something significant. John’s gospel tells us: “Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple, he said: ‘This is your mother.’” Here, the ‘beloved disciple’ could be understood as a microcosm of humanity and the Church. Therefore, Christ formed the Church and sanctified her through the blood and water that flowed from his side, symbolizing the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist. In making the Blessed Virgin Mary the mother of the ‘beloved disciple,’ the New Adam invariably makes the New Eve the mother of the Church and humanity, the same way the old Adam named the old Eve as the mother of all those who live.
Undoubtedly, Christ is the head of the Church (cf. Eph. 1:22, Col. 1:18) and we are its members (cf. 1Cor. 12:27). Therefore, if Mary is the Mother of Jesus the head, she must also be the Mother of her members. Therefore, Mary is the Mother of all men by the grace of Christ the Redeemer. This reality becomes clearer when St. Luke spots her significant presence in the upper room, united in prayers with the disciples who were preparing to receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (cf. Acts 1:13-14).
Dear friends in Christ, that, glorious things were told of the ‘City of God’ according to today’s Psalmist, was because of the Temple in that City that contained the “Ark of the Covenant.” If glorious things were told of the City of God – Zion, more exceedingly shall glorious things be told of the Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary who mothers that Church.
Above all, the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church (Lumen Gentium) confirms that: “By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ. For in the mystery of the Church, which is itself rightly called mother and virgin, the Blessed Virgin stands out in eminent and singular fashion as exemplar both of virgin and mother” (L.G. #63). In this way, we see Mary’s clear connection with the Church. It is such an intimate connection that we cannot read the history of salvation without relating it to the person of the Virgin Mary.
As we celebrate Our Lady as the Mother of the Church at this critical time when Church structures are closed as a measure to curb the spread of COVID-19; when receiving the Sacraments seems quite difficult for the members of the Church, may she pray for us to Christ her Son, the Head of the Church for an end of the pandemic. We also beseech her to continually strengthen and guide the Holy Father aright in all his dealings, that he may lead and pastor the Church in accordance with the Will of God. We also pray for all other Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and the lay faithful, that by constantly trusting in her maternal care and persevering in the faith, we may come to be united with the Triumphant Church (the heavenly Jerusalem) at the last day. Amen.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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