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A clip from “Mary of Nazareth”: “Beatitudes–Sermon on the Mount”:
The Beatitudes, states the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching.” Why? Because, the Catechism summarizes, the Beatitudes “teach us the final end to which God calls us: the Kingdom, the vision of God, participation in the divine nature, eternal life, filiation, rest in God” (pars 1716, 1726). Presented at the opening of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7), the Beatitudes (Matt 5:3-12) take us into the mystery of the Kingdom, a mystery that can only be understood and access through the person of Jesus the Messiah. who is priest, prophet, and king.
Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God is the focus of the Third Mystery of Light: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15). This calls to mind the words of Saint Paul, writing to the Christians in Galatia: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law…” (Gal 4:4). That woman, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was not a mere instrument or a pious bystander, but was an active participant in the advent of the Kingdom. But her active participation was not a matter of sensational public display, but of perfect, humble faith, made known through her quiet yet astonishing Fiat–a prayer “revealed to us at the dawning of the fullness of time” (CCC, par 2617).
By saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38), Mary revealed her perfect heart and faith, desiring that God’s word come to fruition and God’s will find completion. She offers her whole being, and that offering, in essence, what the Beatitudes are all about: ““Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…” This poverty of spirit is not a desolation of one’s being, but a recognition of who we are before God; it is not despair in the face of God’s holiness, but an immersion in the saving work of God, the Giver of life.
““Most blessed are you among women,” cried Elizabeth in wonder, “and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42). How blessed was Mary? It might seem a silly question considering she carried the Incarnate Son in her womb. But it should be noted that the phrase “blessed art thou among women” is the Jewish way of saying: “You are the most blessed of woman!” And why has Mary been chosen by the Most High to be the mother of the Redeemer? Because of God’s grace and her faithful response to it, a fact that Elizabeth, herself a woman of great faith, recognized: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45).
What does it mean to be blessed? The first appearance of the word “bless” in the Bible is found in the creation account in Genesis 1, which describes God looking upon the creatures of earth, blessing them, and declaring: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:22). Then, after creating man, he blessed Adam and Eve and said, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). So blessing is closely connected to the gift and giving of life. In the Old Testament blessings were closely connected with prosperity, progeny, and promise. Blessings were central to the great covenants made with Abraham, Moses, and David. The blessing of Mary also involves prosperity, progeny, and promise–but uniquely so, for her Son offers divine life and eternal joy to all people, whether Jew or Gentile, through and in the Kingdom of God: “Everyone is called to enter the Kingdom. First announced to the children of Israel, this messianic kingdom is intended to accept men of all nations” (CCC, 543).
Pondering the meaning of the Kingdom and our place in salvation history brings us to the feet of Mary, the mother of the Savior. Introducing Redemptoris Mater, his encyclical devoted to the Blessed Mother, St. Pope John Paul II referenced the passage from Galatians 4, “The Mother of the Redeemer has a precise place in the plan of salvation, for ‘when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ (Gal. 4:4-6).” Such is the mystery of salvation: God initiates; Mary responds. God offers; mankind receives; God speaks; those who hear and accept in faith are transformed by his Word. This is the way of love and faith.
As the sinless, holy Mother of God, Mary is a unique creature. But her perfection and holiness do not make her aloof or inaccessible. Instead, the Mother of the Savior is a mother for everyone. She draws us near, desiring to reveal the fullness of her Son to the Church and to the entire world. She is the perfect example of one who is perfectly prepared for the coming of God and the revelation of his Kingdom. Young, poor, and unassuming, she would become–by God’s grace and her free choice–the Mother of God. And by virtue of being Mother of God, she is also the Mother of the Church, for her Son is the head and founder of the Church, the household of God. We cannot overstate her maternal love for souls, her desire that we embrace and enter the Kingdom in humble faith.
Mary, faithful and holy, is chosen so that others can also be chosen and made holy, transformed by her Son into the sons and daughters of God and joined to the Body of Christ. Mary “is the Virgo fidelis, the faithful virgin, who was never anything but faithful,” noted Fr. Jean Daniélou, SJ, “whose fidelity was the perfect answer to the fidelity of God; she was always entirely consecrated to the one true God.”
Mary is also the first disciple of her Son, the God-man, as well as the New Eve, whose obedience and gift of her entire being overturns the sin and rebellion of the first Eve. Her holy meekness and unwavering obedience reversed the disobedience of Eve. “And thus also it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary”, wrote St. Irenaeus, “For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith” (Against Heresies, Bk. 3, 22.3). Her Son is the New Adam, who comes to give everlasting, supernatural life and heal the mortal wound inflicted by the sin of the first Adam (cf. 1 Cor 15:45).
In sum, Mary fulfills perfectly, by God’s grace and her cooperation, the Beatitudes; she is the exemplar of what it means to live in the Kingdom, for her relationship with the King lacks nothing while revealing everything necessary for salvation, joy, and eternal beatitude.
CWR blog encourages you to check out tomorrow’s clip at Catholicmom.com. Lisa Hendey will bring us the “Way of the Cross”.
Purchase or learn more about the “Mary of Nazareth” DVD on the Ignatius Press website.
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