Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mary, Conceived Without Sin

Notes on Assumption Sunday:

Why was Mary assumed into Heaven? Why did her soul not leave her body to decay in the earth, like ours will until the end of time?

The Catholic Church believes that Mary was conceived without sin. By the grace of God, she was preserved from the stain of original sin. This is fitting for the woman who would become the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven. Her womb would bear Christ.

Because she did not have original sin, she did not have to bear the consequence of the fracture that occurred when Adam and Eve sinned. When God created Adam and Eve, He created them as perfect human beings—the body and soul were one, united. When they sinned, there was a fracture between our spiritual nature (our soul) and our bodily nature (we humans are both spirit and body; angels, on the contrary, are only spirit). This fracture is part of our fallen nature, what causes us to sin. It is not a total and complete fracture—it can be repaird through Christ, but because of this fracture, our flesh becomes opposed to our spiritual nature. Our fleshly desires are sinful, and go against what our soul desires in God.

This fracture is evident when we die: our soul leaves the body to go on to Heaven, and our bodies stay behind to decay. Death is a consequence of Original Sin.

But Mary did not have Original Sin. So, when her earthly life ended, God was able to assume her up into Heaven body and soul. Her body did not have the consequence of decaying here on earth.

One day, at the end of time, at the Final Judgment, God will raise our bodies as well, and the fracture between the flesh and spirit will be completely healed. We will be perfect again.

So how do we know that Mary was preserved from sin. Well, the first reading today speaks of “the ark of the covenant”, alluding that “the woman” was the ark. And in this reading, the woman bore a child, and the red dragon wished to devour it, but God catches the child, the ruler of nations, up to his throne. This has been interpreted to mean that Mary is the woman, the child is Christ, and the dragon is the devil.

So why is it important that Mary is the “ark of the covenant”? Really, she is the Ark of the New Covenant, prefigured in the Old Testament with the Ark of the Old Covenant. We can see her prefigurement in what the Ark of the Old Covenant contained. As says:

“The Old Testament tells us that one item was placed inside the Ark of the Old Covenant while in the Sinai wilderness: God told Moses to put the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments inside the ark (Deut. 10:3–5). Hebrews 9:4 informs us that two additional items were placed in the Ark: ‘a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded.’ Notice the amazing parallels: In the ark was the law of God inscribed in stone; in Mary’s womb was the Word of God in flesh. In the ark was the urn of manna, the bread from heaven that kept God’s people alive in the wilderness; in Mary’s womb is the Bread of Life come down from heaven that brings eternal life. In the ark was the rod of Aaron, the proof of true priesthood; in Mary’s womb is the true priest. In the third century, St. Gregory the Wonder Worker said that Mary is truly an ark—‘gold within and gold without, and she has received in her womb all the treasures of the sanctuary.’”

In the Old Testament, the ark was required by God to be perfect, and he plans a very details account of how it is to be constructed. To quote from

“The third and most compelling type of Mary’s Immaculate Conception is the ark of the covenant. In Exodus 20 Moses is given the Ten Commandments. In chapters 25 through 30 the Lord gives Moses a detailed plan for the construction of the ark, the special container which would carry the Commandments. The surprising thing is that five chapters later, staring in chapter 35 and continuing to chapter 40, Moses repeats word for word each of the details of the ark’s construction.

Why? It was a way of emphasizing how crucial it was for the Lord’s exact specifications to be met (Ex. 25:9, 39:42-43). God wanted the ark to be as perfect and unblemished as humanly possible so it would be worthy of the honor of bearing the written Word of God. How much more so would God want Mary, the ark of the new covenant, to be perfect and unblemished since she would carry within her womb the Word of God in flesh.

When the ark was completed, "the cloud covered the meeting tent and the glory of the Lord filled the dwelling. Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the Lord filled the dwelling" (Ex. 40:34-38). Compare this with the words of Gabriel to Mary in Luke 1:35.”

So, you see, Mary, as the Ark of the New Covenant was perfect, created by God to be the perfect temple for His Son.

That is why she was assumed into Heaven.

Please check these out:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

“Set the Earth on Fire”

So I wrote this for the 20th Sunday in ordinary time and then realized that next Sunday is the Assumption... Oops. Well, I thought you might enjoy anyway.

Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10 and Luke 12:49-53

"Do you think I have come to establish peace on this earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”

How often is it we want to avoid confrontation with our loved ones? For the sake of peace we try not to say anything to offend them.

Yet, how often does something need to be said regarding the faith? Uncle Johnny falls away from the church. Neice Suzie is living with her boyfriend. Brother Joe doesn’t go to confession anymore. Yet we sit idly by saying it’s not our business and we don’t want to push them away.

But we should gently tell them the Truth. Jesus always told the Truth no matter how people felt about it, and He loved each and every one of his audience more than we could ever love our family. See how many people hye offended? See how much division He caused? “…a father will be divided against his son…” Yet, in the end, His Truth rang out loud and clear and the Church was established.

In the first reading, Jeremiah was speaking the truth, yet the princes wanted to kill him. They said “he is not interested in the welfare of our people, but in their ruin?” How often do we hear this in our world: “You are not interested in the welfare of the women and their right to choose; you want to ruin their lives by forcing them to have a baby!”

Or your uncle who has fallen away. When you try to talk to him he may claim, “You are not interested in my welfare, you are self-righteous and judgmental!” But we don’t have to convince him ourselves—God will do that through His grace. We just have to light a little spark so that God will “set [his heart] on fire.”

And, of course, we must lead by example.

Our world claims that Christians don’t know anything about the good of the people—we are just stiff goody-goodies who want to control others’ lives. But the “freedom” they seek is a slavery to sin, like one who is addicted to a drug that leads to destruction.

So we must speak out, especially to our fathers and mothers, uncles and cousins, children. Let us “set the earth on fire.” Through God’s grace, they will see the Truth; it begins with that tiny spark.

Oh, “how I wish [the earth] were already blazing!”

Blessed is the Faithful and Prudent Steward

Luke 12:32-48

“Who , then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?”

Priests. Preists are these faithful stewards. We all are servants who must be vigilant for Christ’s Coming, but it is the priests and bishops who are these stewards that are put in charge. Peter says, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” and Christ answers with a parable of the “faithful and prudent steward”. He is speaking of the apostles, who then pass down their authority to the bishops and priests of today.

Notice that Christ says “to distribute the food allowance at the proper time”. What food allowance? The Eucharist? “Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.” God is pleased with the priest that serves the other servants with this “food allowance”, Christ’s precious Body and Blood.

Notice later, however, Christ says, “That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly.”

In light of the recent scandals in the Church, this speaks volumes. Priests are held to a higher standard than others, and rightly so—Christ himself holds them to a higher standard as the “servant who knew his master’s will”. No wonder the media seems to be tearing them apart. This is not to say that the media isn’t biased, or that they are treating the Church fairly (they aren’t), but it does show the magnitude of the priests actions as the “steward” who guides the other servants. Priests are “entrusted with more”, and much more is demanded of them.

Thank God for our beloved priests who serve us and guide us, and whom “the master… put in charge of his servants”. We so desperately need their guidance and the precious Eucharist given to us only by Christ through them.

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Our wonderful priests, “entrusted with more” will surely have their reward in Heaven when Christ “will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.” I pray to God that He gives them the strength to lead all of us servants to Christ.