Friday, May 25, 2012

Mary's Month

The month of May is traditionally Mary's month. It has always been one of my favorite months of the year, along with October. Today is a very special day, because it is my only child's 8th birthday. Today I remember with fondness and awe that day 8 years ago, when she was born at 3:11 on a Tuesday afternoon. I woke up already in labor that morning, and I was only at the hospital for about six hours before she was born. She was named after my mother for her middle name.

It is a joy to witness the excitement of my daughter as we prepare for her birthday party this evening. I know that Mary is watching over us with her holy, maternal love, celebrating this lovely day with my family and my daughter's friends, along with the happiness she must receive from the special honor we give her during this whole month. In a couple of weeks Beezy will be baptized and officially enter into the family of God.

I ask for a blessing upon this day, that any worries will be set aside, that our hearts will be filled with nothing but love and joy, and that all of God's grace will be upon us. The one who is full of grace shares it with anyone who asks. Beezy just came in and said that she and my husband were in a car accident! Thank goodness they were not harmed. Well, no day is perfect, but our joy can still be boundless if we choose it!!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Just Jesus and Me?

A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgement (Proverbs 18:1). 

On the Catholic TV program, The Journey Home, host Marcus Grodi was talking to a former Episcopalian priest about the "just Jesus and me" doctrine of some evangelical churches. This means that the personal relationship with Jesus, and individual study of the Bible, is emphasized in exclusion to almost anything else in one's Christian walk. For some, even church is not absolutely necessary.

Catholics also recognize the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus, but the difference is that it happens within membership in the Church--the Body of Christ--and its living sacraments and traditions. The sacred scriptures also find their home and fullest expression within the liturgy (the Catholic church service known as the Mass). The homily given by the priest then applies the readings to daily life.

Individual Bible study is encouraged as well, but Catholics are not left to their own devices of interpretation. Rather, interpretation occurs through the lens of Tradition. It is true that some Catholics end up leaving the Church because they do not feel that they ever had a personal relationship with Jesus. They feel that they knew the associated rituals and practices but not Jesus himself, and some end up being drawn to a Protestant church to fill this need. This reflects poor teaching of the faith from within the Catholic Church, and from what I understand, a greater emphasis on knowing Jesus personally is one of the results of Vatican II to remedy this situation. The traffic is going both ways, also leading many to the fullness of the faith found in Catholicism.

Perhaps what has not always been understood is that the Catholic is never alone in his walk with Jesus, nor do I think Jesus wants anyone to venture on the path without company. Each member of the Church together with the others, both those still living on this earth and those living eternally in heaven (or still in purgatory), comprise the mystical Body of Christ, of which Jesus is the Head, and the Church is to respond to the Bridegroom, Jesus, as his Bride. Each member is also individually a bride of Christ, but this is within the context of the larger Body. Therefore, the idea of "just Jesus and me" is a false understanding. We are created to worship together.

There is a place for personal revelation, certainly, but again it cannot conflict with the teachings of the Church, which are based on the interdependent relationship of Scripture and Tradition. There were 12 apostles, as well as a group of women, who physically followed Jesus in his ministry. It was a large group of 120 disciples, including the Virgin Mary, who received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost together after Jesus ascended. This was the official beginning of the Church, headed by Peter, that exists still today, as Jesus promised that it would until he came again. Despite its long history of corruption and less than holy people, Jesus said that hell would not prevail over his Church, that he would protect it and its teachings. This Church is none other than the Catholic Church, the only church with an unbroken line tracing it back to Jesus and his apostles. What more assurance do we need?


The primary form of worship in the Catholic Church, the Eucharist celebration, was established by Jesus at the Last Supper. Jesus also gave Peter the "keys to the kingdom", granting him the ability to forgive sins in Jesus' name and such power that whatever Peter bound on earth would be bound in heaven, and whatever he loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven. Jesus gave similar authority to all the apostles, with Peter having primacy, and this authority has been handed down to the succeeding popes and bishops, from generation to generation. Even in the midst of evil doings by people in the Church, the keys have never been lost.

And we have been left in good company. The dead are not dead, but they are living in him, says Jesus, and so we have Mary and the saints as role models, advocates, teachers, and intercessors. They walk along with us in the "great cloud of witnesses".  Think about it like this. Not so long ago, if a person wanted to be a blacksmith, he was apprenticed to a master blacksmith, learning the trade by working along side of him. He was not left to his own devices to figure out how to forge the metal.

When I was pregnant, I appointed one of my co-workers, Lisa, to be my "pregnancy mentor". She was three months further along in her pregnancy, so I could go to her with questions and learn from her experience. One day I was short of breath, and Lisa instructed me to raise both arms above my head, from which I received instant relief! Mary, the Mother of God, is my motherhood mentor, just as my own mother has also been, along with other mothers I know whose children are older than mine. And I, in return, am a mentor to others. We are not alone in any of our journeys in life!

Mary also mentors us by her example of faith and loyalty, leading us in how to be steadfast, spiritually mothering us gently but firmly, reminding us to "Do whatever he tells you," because, we must admit, we often forget. Mary is mother, teacher, and advocate, always helping when we ask her, praying for us, and pointing us back to Jesus when our eyes wander. She continues to cooperate fully in God's plan for our salvation and entrance into the divine family, which is why she is referred to as intercessor. Mary is the human person most perfectly conformed to Christ. We would be wise to attach ourselves to her.

A woman wrote in Mamapedia, an online group, that she does not ask, or need, others to pray for her, because she goes straight to Jesus. And yes, we should and must pray directly to God. But I don't think anyone can rightly deny that there is great power in the prayers of many, working together for healing, for a common cause, for Love to prevail. Paul tells us in his epistles to pray for each other, so that is what we are obligated to do. It behooves us all to walk with Jesus as one, holding hands. Just Jesus and me, and you, and your sister, neighbor, and friends, and Mary and the saints and the angels, all joining in a holy chorus, singing "Hosanna in the highest..."