Leonardo da Vince Madonna and Child
Madonna and Child, Leonardo da Vinci

“We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children.” (I Thessalonians 2:7) Here St. Paul expresses the kind of love that the Church has for us, Her children.

We look, of course, to our Holy Father, and to the supreme magisterium of the Church, for guidance–when it comes to how the Church best loves as a mother. The Magisterium teaches us what the Church’s love involves by way of succor, and by way of discipline. We don’t love well if we love more indulgently than Holy Mother Church, or more severely. Those above us, the Pope and the bishops, teach us exactly how indulgent, and how severe, to be.

As for ourselves, let’s focus for a moment not on the mother, but on the baby.

The infant at the breast has no subtlety when it comes to communication, and no pride—no delusions whatsoever of independence. When the child is hungry, he or she simply… cries. Caterwauls, desperately.

That’s us. The crying babies. We can’t be too proud to cry. We can’t be too proud to acknowledge that we need the Lord to help us, that we need the grace which the sacraments give us. We need the sacred ministry of the Church Christ established more desperately than babies need milk.

Our gospel readings at Holy Mass today and tomorrow offer us a perfect warm-up for the passage we will read this Sunday. I’ll have more to say about the business of our Lord condemning the Pharisees then.

But we find the key to understanding Christ’s blistering condemnation of the Pharisees, I think, by putting ourselves in the place of the baby at the breast.

The evil of pharisaism lay not in any of their ceremonies and customs themselves, many of which were perfectly laudable. What the Pharisees lacked was: unpretentious dependence on the merciful love of God. They forgot that they were babies at the breast. Let’s remember that we are.

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