Our Lady’s Holiness, and Our Lord’s

El Greco Virgin Mary

The Blessed Virgin longed for salvation. She longed for the completion, the fulfillment of God’s loving plan. Her total consecration to God from the moment of her own conception in her mother’s womb did not make her less eager for the redemption of the sin-soaked world; it made her all the more eager for it.

The idea that Jesus and Mary could ever “compete” for our admiration or devotion; the idea that they could have a “holiness contest?” No.

The perfectly holy Blessed Mother longed to conceive the Christ more than any human being ever long for anything. Because she longed like no one else ever has for the salvation of the world.

Once she had conceived Jesus, Mary longed to give birth to Him, to gaze upon Him–more than any mother has ever longed to give birth. Not because Mary experienced extraordinary physical strain during pregnancy, but because her matchless purity as a human being made her long more than anyone else to see God.

Holiness as a human being doesn’t make you long for the holiness of God less. It makes you long for God more.

So maybe we could put it like this: Human holiness during this pilgrim life = emptiness. The spiritual life involves emptying ourselves, as much as we can, of all the folderol that distracts us from the one, true thing—God. We strain throughout our lives to have the emptiness that our Lady had from Day One.

On the other hand, divine holiness is fullness. Divine holiness fulfills the fundamental emptiness of us lowly creatures made of dust and ashes.

Mary is a mother. Not just any mother–she was empty enough to conceive a son by believing in God’s love for His creation.

Jesus is a son.  Not just any son. The Creator.

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Beautify the Basilica Instead of Building the Wall

guadalupe face

Four hundred eighty-seven years ago today, the mother of God appeared on our continent, to assure us of her love for us.

That was before the United States of America existed, or the United States of Mexico. At that time, the Rio Grande did not mark a “national borderline.” Nor did any kind of border run through the Sonora desert. And baja California and alta California were both parts of one place. [Click for Part I and Part II of my extended commentary on this.]

Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego in Mexico City. She left her image on his cloak, which still hangs in the basilica there.

Twenty years ago, Pope St. John Paul II visited the same spot. He had gathered the bishops of the entire American continent. The pope made December 12 a feastday in all these lands. He recognized Guadalupe as the spiritual center of the western hemisphere.

By the grace of God, I have laid eyes on the tilma twice, in ’95 and ’97. Maybe you, dear reader, have seen it, also. Hopefully someday all of us Catholics of America will make a holy pilgrimage, to see the indescribably lovely image and receive the unique graces of our Lady’s presence here with us on our continent.

When the pope visited Guadalupe, he made no comment regarding the architecture of the current basilica. They built it in the mid-1970’s, to accommodate up to 10,000 people. Anyone ever seen it? Or a picture of it? It looks like a wrecked spaceship, in the shape of a melted Hershey’s kiss.

Basilica Guadalupe

I don’t think we want a wall between us and the place where Our Lady visited us. A wall would only get in the way of a pilgrimage there.

Maybe, instead of spending $1 zillion on a pointless, counter-productive border wall, we could spend the money building a new, nicer Guadalupe basilica instead?

Immaculate-Conception Day Homily

Remember that all able-bodied Catholics must attend Mass either this evening or tomorrow. Our cluster Masses here: 7pm this eve at St. Joseph; 10am tomorrow at St. Francis. The 4:30pm Mass at St. Francis also fulfills the holy day obligation.

PS. If we get a lot of snow during the night Saturday, remember also:

No one ever has an obligation to travel to Mass in unsafe conditions. Including me. I will drive to Martinsville after Rocky Mount Mass Sunday morning, provided it’s safe for me to do so.

I will keep you posted here.

annunciation-merode

They shall keep my name holy. They shall reverence the holy one of Jacob, and be in awe of the God of Israel. (Isaiah 29:23)

Our religion. The faith of Abraham. In spite of all the estrangement from goodness which goes along with human life on earth; in spite of all the malice and confusion, God’s Israelites keep holy the name of the Creator. We stand in awe of Him—hopefully somewhat like how Adam and Eve themselves stood in awe of their heavenly Father, in the garden. Before the devil tempted them, and they fell.

Among those who have kept the name of God holy, one stands above all the rest. She had absolutely pure religion. She stood in awe before the great loving kindness of God, and submitted herself to that love, without holding back even the tiniest iota of herself.

missale-romanum-white-bgAfter Holy Communion at Mass honoring our Lady’s immaculate conception in St. Ann’s womb, we pray:

May the sacrament we have received heal in us the wounds of that fault, from which, in a singular way, you preserved Blessed Mary.

The wounds of that fault from which the Lord preserved His mother, so that she could show us what the Church of God truly is.

Mary had humble charity. She hastened to help Elizabeth, as soon as she learned about her older cousin’s unusual late-in-life pregnancy. And, of course, Mary showed her perfect compassion even more radiantly at the foot of the cross. No human being has ever loved as Mary loved her son, unto death.

We also know that: Mary’s love proceeded according to penetrating prudence. At the wedding of her kinspeople, she concerned herself with a practical problem. Let’s not run out of wine here, for God’s sake.

But, even more magnificently prudent. She asked the stunning archangel announcing God’s grand plan:

‘How do you figure that, o angel? I only know one way of getting pregnant.’

Faultlessly loving and prudent. But the entire edifice of the Blessed Mother’s purity rested on something else: Faith. Awe before the majesty of Israel’s God.

‘The Holy Spirit will give you a son!’ To which she replied, ‘Amen. I believe in God the Father Almighty, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’

The Holy Mass is our sacrament of faith in the triune God, Who made heaven and earth, and Who won our salvation on the cross. The Mass can and will heal our fault—the faultiness of our charity, of our prudence, of our faith.

The grace of the Holy Mass is the same grace that preserved the Blessed Mother from original sin. Gathered at the altar, we will overcome the estrangement of The Fall. We will keep the name of God holy.

Names, Mary

Seems a shame to name a hurricane after such a lovely place, where they have Michelangelo’s David, Fra Angelico’s Annunciation, the Medici Palace, the Duomo…

king davidToday the Blessed Mother received the ancient name of the woman who sang the canticle of Hebrew freedom, after they crossed the Red Sea dry shod.

A lot of our loved ones have the same name. We rejoice today especially for the gift that all our beloved Marys are for us.

Let’s also remember: Every Christian name is sacred. When someone receives a name at the baptismal font, it’s forever—a name for eternity, a name written in God’s book.

Mary lived Jesus’ beatitudes. She had no earthly authority or wealth. She suffered and wept for justice, for the truth, for love of God incarnate. She hoped in nothing other than God.

Now she reigns in eternal splendor. She reads the eternal book with all our Christian names written in it. Can we not imagine that she runs her lovely finger along the lines of that book, passing her fingertip across each of our names, her heart filled with tender love and encouragement for the one she has in mind at that moment? Let’s imagine her, and let it dispel all our fears about anything.

Praying for You and Thinking You’re Incompetent

boticelli Madonna Magnificat

God made us to give Him glory. By His grace, we try to do that in everything—every waking moment, and every sleeping moment, too. Like Mary our Queen put it: My soul magnifies the Lord.

Of course our main way to glorify God is: Holy Mass. Our souls magnify the Lord most when we offer ourselves to God at the altar—the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, united in true worship. We offer ourselves along with the Host and Chalice to the Father, in our humble churches all over the world.

I, for one, find myself limping along with this right now. I think many, if not most, of us American Catholics find ourselves limping along with this.

Catholics cannot expect every pope, bishop, priest, or deacon to speak and act like a living saint all the time.  We all have our foibles; we all need to exercise patience with each other.

But can’t we reasonably expect more humility, honesty, and coherent prudent action from our shepherds? More constructive communication? We can’t expect great sanctity. But can’t we expect basic pastoral competence? Steadiness in the basic duties?

What is “The Scandal of Summer 2018?” Isn’t it the evident fact that we don’t have competent governance of our Church? The evident fact that sure hands do not hold the wheel? And that they haven’t held the wheel for some time now?

The wheel of the Church is in the hands of an impaired driver, one who only knows how to react—and reacts sluggishly and sometimes steers right into danger. The driver does not seem to know where we are going. It’s like our Church is just following a computer-voiced GPS, rather than having a real father at the wheel, who knows the roads and where we’re headed. And knows things like: where we might stop for a rest, a meal, a lovely view.

steering wheelI don’t mean just the pope. Of course I wouldn’t wish the burden of being a bishop on anyone, much less the burden of being the bishop of Rome. I wouldn’t wish the burden of being a priest on anyone, or the burden of being a father.

After all, there’s only one way to make it through life in one piece. To be a monk. In this sense: To give over all my burdens and responsibilities to God every morning and every night. To try to glorify Him according to His holy will today; tomorrow will offer another, unknown battle.

That’s the only life that can get a soul to heaven, that kind of monk’s life—whether you’re married, a priest, single, whatever.

Also, humility means that we acknowledge: It’s not really our place to judge the competence of our superiors. The Church cannot function without obedient hierarchical co-operation, any more than any family can function without obedient hierarchical co-operation.

But, in August 2018, we have a right to suspend that ecclesiastical convention of unquestioning humility. We have not just a right to suspend it, but a kind of duty. A duty to honesty. And a duty to our hope for a better future.

So we say: We will continue to live the life of the Church. We will pray at the altar according to the Roman Missal. We pray for you every day, dear pope and bishops. But we think you are incompetent.

937,603 + Kolbe, JPII, and Our Lady

937,603 visits here so far. Ten years. Happy anniversary, dear Reader!


El Greco Virgin Mary

The Christ came to us, God made man. He was conceived and grew in the womb of His immaculate mother. He spent most His life on earth in her household. When He went to the cross for us, she accompanied Him. Then she saw Him again on Easter Sunday morning. After He ascended into heaven, He poured out His Holy Spirit upon His Apostles–when they gathered to pray with His Mother.

The flesh-and-blood intimacy between the Christ and His mother–we cannot even begin to fathom its depths. When she came to the end of her earthly life, the intimacy between them reached its fulfillment: Our Lady entered heaven, body and soul, flesh and blood.

Seventy-seven years ago, a Polish priest came to the end of his life on the Vigil of Assumption Day. He offered himself for execution in a Nazi concentration camp, to take the place of another prisoner who had a wife and family.

Father Maximilian Kolbe had dedicated his life to spreading devotion to the Blessed Mother. He built a small publishing empire to combat the forces of atheism and irreligion.

Father Kolbe had a German father. When the Nazis took over Poland, the priest had an opportunity to sign up for the “German-blood” list. It would have protected him from arrest. But, like many other half-German Poles, Father Kolbe would not do anything to co-operate with the Nazis.

He loved our Lady. He knew that our Lady’s heart beats in heaven. With love for the whole human race. And he knew that the blood flowing through her heart, and though our Lady’s entire glorified body…not German, not Polish. Not English, French, Italian, or Scandinavian, either.

holocaust-nazi--badge-star-of-davidJewish.

The Nazis killed flesh-and-blood human beings on a massive scale. Because they had fallen in love with the pagan dream of racial purity. But God has no interest in such a fantasy. He’s interested in particular individual human beings. Each of which He makes utterly and unrepeatably unique.

On the day when the Nazis killed Father Kolbe in a concentration camp, Pope St. John Paul II was also in Poland. He was working at hard labor, because the Nazis had closed the university. He was 21 years old.

Anyway, as we know, the 21-year-old fellow Pole grew up to be the pope. The pope who would canonize Father Kolbe and declare him a martyr for the faith. John Paul II understood from the inside that Nazism counted as a persecution of the Christian religion. Father Kolbe had said what the Church believes–when his brother Franciscans asked him about helping to save Jews: “We are all brothers!”

During the 1930’s and World War II, the Church had a kind of meltdown. The rise of Nazism posed a huge challenge, and not every Catholic met that challenge. Many bishops, even whole national conferences of bishops, lost sight of this crucial aspect of the Christian mystery: God loves every individual human being enough to die on the cross for him or her. Plenty of Catholics, including plenty of bishops, forgot that God loves the Jews as much as He loves anybody. And they forgot that the Son of God, and the Mother of God, are both…Jewish.

Christ would have died just so His mother could go to heaven. Even if she were the only one, He would gladly have done it. We think: well, of course, He would have died to save His mother. But the same goes for everyone else. Christ would have died for any single individual human being–any single one–to go to heaven.

The many Christian martyrs during the time of Nazism kept that fact in perfect focus in their minds. Their witness inspired Pope St. John Paul II to formulate his doctrine about the Gospel of Life. We, the Church, stand for the dignity of every human being. Or rather, we stand with every human being–especially the weak, the victims of injustice, the suffering.

From heaven our Lady sees everything and identifies with those who need love. May she help us always do the same.

Praying Heroes

Garofalo Ascension of Christ

Lord Jesus prepared to ascend to the Father. He gave a final benediction to His disciples, with two components.

First: I am sending you. He says that to us, also.

The Kingdom of God has one center, one “capital city,” so to speak: the human Heart of Christ. His Heart beats with love for every human being, because every human being exists by virtue of God’s divine love.

So the Lord says to us: I send you on a mission. To extend My Kingdom by extending My love. Live in My love, so that, living in love, you can love. You can love your neighbor in mercy and in truth. With that love, the divine love, you will conquer the kingdom of evil.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, wrote us a letter in March, to help us understand how we must base our lives completely on the mission that Jesus has given us. The same mission that the Lord gave to the original Apostles, as He prepared to ascend to heaven—He has given that same mission to us.

The key to our spiritual lives, the key to Christian holiness, the key to a vigorous and meaningful life in this world is: Our apostolate. Christ has consecrated us His apostles; we have a mission. And that mission involves loving our neighbors with the love of the Heart of Christ. It involves pursuing souls, to help them come home to holy Mother Church.

We have no doubt: what we receive at Mass offers the sustenance that every human soul desperately needs. So we extend the offer to our neighbors, ‘Come, share this feast with us!’ We risk contempt, rejection, all kinds of suffering. Christ went to the cross for us, out of love, and He sends us out into the world as ambassadors of His crucified love.

peter-crucifixionWhen we grasp all this, we grasp the true meaning of our lives. We grasp the true meaning of every human interaction we have–with anyone, anywhere, anytime. When we realize that we exist for the sake of our apostolate, we grasp the vital principle of reality. Because the world turns on Divine Love.

Which heroes do we admire as the most truly manly? How about St. Peter? He repented of his betrayal, and he admitted it. Jesus forgave him, and gave the first pope his mission. Then St. Peter went out and found a way to befriend recalcitrant Jews. He found a way to befriend Greeks, Roman soldiers, everyone—so that they could know Christ. St. Peter shepherded the whole flock, spread across the Mediterranean. Then he unflinchingly offered his own life, hanging upside down on a cross, on Vatican Hill in Rome.

Or how about St. Paul? What more manly hero could anyone ever imagine? Like St. Peter, a humble repentant sinner. And a tireless traveler and adventurer. St. Paul’s adventures make Indiana Jones look like Papa Smurf by comparison. St. Paul, like St. Peter, communicated with every kind of person, in all kinds of languages, so that everyone could know Christ. And St. Paul, too, offered his mortal body as a sacrifice to God on the outskirts of the city of Rome, where they beheaded the human author of half of the New Testament.

Jesus summons us today to this kind of humble, adventurous heroism. But there was a second component to Christ’s parting benediction. He didn’t just say, Go, evangelize. He said: Pray first. Pray that the Holy Spirit will come. Pray that heaven may clothe you with the power of divine love. Because you can’t do it without My Holy Spirit.

None of the heroic exploits of selfless love, undertaken by the original apostles, or by any of the martyrs and saints who have followed in their footsteps—none of these manly deeds could ever have happened, if it hadn’t been for the original Novena.

pentecost_with_maryThe original Novena involved the future heroes of Christ’s Church keeping quiet and still for nine days, trembling with fear and uncertainty about the future. Meanwhile, one person stood at the center and showed them what to do.

The Greatest Hero showed the other heroes what to do. They would all freely admit: they followed the lead of the one who quietly, unobtrusively, unpretentiously, steadily, gently prayed.

The Blessed Virgin. The Mother of the Apostolate.

Who won the Holy Spirit for us? Who moved God to pour out His fearless divine love into our unworthy hearts?

Jesus, of course. Also His Mother. For those nine days between Ascension and Pentecost, she prayed. Could the Apostles have prayed like they should have, without her? Are you kidding? They would have gone crazy with confusion and fear; they would have bickered endlessly—if the Blessed Mother had not been there to steady them and focus them on the task at hand. Prayer.

Hopefully everyone takes my point. We find meaning in life by grasping that God has consecrated us to do heroic deeds of selfless love to build His kingdom. And the greatest heroes of them all? Our mothers, who quietly taught us how to pray.

Our Lady vs. the Gnostics and Pelagians

The Angel Gabriel from heaven came. He came to Our Lady on March 25. But we couldn’t have Annunciation Day on Palm Sunday. Or during Holy Week, or the Easter Octave. So this year, Mary will give birth on December 25, after only 8 ½ months.

At the Annunciation, the holy Incarnation occurred. Actually, calling the mystery the “holy” Incarnation is redundant, since “Incarnation” means God becoming man, and God is Holiness Itself, of course.

After she conceived the Lord in her womb, the Blessed Mother traveled to the Judean hill country to visit her cousin, and she sang her canticle, the Magnificat. Mary called herself a lowly servant upon whom the Lord had looked with favor, showing the strength of His arm and scattering the proud in their conceit.

Pride gets in the way of our friendship with God. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has identified two forms of pride that lead to heresy. And he asks us to examine our consciences for these dangers.

Gnosticism. The ancient Gnostics called themselves Christians. But they didn’t really believe in the Incarnation or the Church. Instead, they held to what they regarded as their own privileged knowledge of God.

gaudete et exsultateI think this heresy does indeed continue to lurk all over the place. Many people put their own ideas ahead of the teachings of Scripture and the Church.

For instance, statements like: “God is greater than any religion, since religion is something that human beings do.” Okay, true enough. But how about this: “God is greater than that idea—the idea that God is greater than any human religion.” After all, God is in fact so awesomely great and transcendent that He became a man and practiced religion Himself. The religion of Jesus is the true religion, because it is not just a human religion, but is also the work of God.

Pelagianism. The ancient Pelagians thought that they could perfect themselves through their own efforts. They called themselves Christians because they regarded Jesus as their great example. But the Pelagians refused to confront the fundamental fact about human salvation. They refused to acknowledge: without Christ’s grace; without God giving His justice and goodness to us, even though we did not deserve it–we would have no hope. The Pelagians would not acknowledge the utter neediness of the human situation. Therefore they could not really rejoice in the gift that God has given us by sending His Son.

Again I think our Holy Father is absolutely right that this heresy lurks everywhere today: wherever human egos put themselves in the place of God, Who lovingly places on our shoulders not a burden of servitude, but the sweet and gentle yoke of His Son Jesus.

Let’s contemplate Our Lady singing her Magnificat. The angel had demanded that she have faith beyond the limits of human conception. Her prospects for a comfortable life had gotten thrown out the window. The entire course of history would turn on the life of the fruit of her womb. And she would have to go along for the ride, without having any idea ahead of time how it would all unfold.

Yet she sang with solemn, exuberant joy—not about herself, but about the good, merciful Lord. God had drawn her closer to Himself than any human being ever; He had made her the queen of His saints. And she had the rough-and-ready humility to take a mother’s delight in it.

The Drama of Our Lady’s Yes

tanner-annunciation

Archangel Gabriel came from heaven to greet our Lady and to make a declaration. ‘You will give birth to the divine king. Name Him Jesus.’ [SPANISH.]

Then Mary asked a reasonable question, touching on the birds and the bees. The archangel gave her an answer, mentioning the Holy Spirit.

There was a brief silence. Let the sexual harassers of the world take note: nothing would happen without Mary’s consent. The Archangel Gabriel waited for an answer. Our Lady had the power to decide whether or not she would become the Mother of God.

Let’s listen to St. Bernard, as he narrated the drama of that moment in one of his sermons:

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him.

St. Bernard goes on. He speaks to our Lady on behalf of the human race:

We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us. The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

We all find ourselves involved in that moment, the moment of the Annunciation, as the archangel awaited our Lady’s consent. In a sense, we were all there, waiting. Yes, each of us has our own unique course of life to run. But none of us escapes the common fate of all the children of Adam. We need a Savior. We need the Messiah Who can liberate us from our own weaknesses, Who can atone for all our mistakes, and Who can give us a life that death cannot destroy.

St. Bernard continues, describing how everything will unfold if the Virgin says Yes:

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving.

…”O blessed Virgin, open your heart to faith.” St. Bernard has profound insight into Our Lady’s soul. Her consent to the Archangel required a great act of Christian faith. She had  to believe–to believe that God loved the world so much that He would give His only-begotten Son. She had to believe that the Holy Spirit could make her the Virgin Mother of the eternal Word. And she had to trust that God in His providence would see her through all the excruciating difficulties that she knew she would face.

In other words, Mary conceived a son in her womb by believing precisely what we believe. That God is one God in three divine Persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that the Son willed to unite Himself to our race, so as to become our Savior. In one all-important moment, Christ’s human life began, and Christianity began, with a young girl believing in the magnificent providence of God.

As we just heard, St. Bernard concludes his narration with dramatic fervor, coaching the Virgin, exhorting her, fathering her. ‘Believe, young lady! God is that good.”

Did Mary believe? She did. How do we know? She said:“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word.”

The Magnificat, Love, and Colds

 

Magnificat

The last few days before Christmas, at Holy Mass we read familiar passages from the beginning of St. Luke’s gospel. Not only the familiar account of the Annunciation. We also read our Lady’s familiar hymn of Thanksgiving for it, namely the Magnificat.

Familiar because it was the responsorial psalm this past Sunday. And we read it at Mass every year on May 31, the Feast of the… Visitation. And we pray the Magnificat every day at… Evening Prayer (aka Vespers).

Did the Blessed Mother experience morning sickness or other complications during the first trimester, or at any other point during her pregnancy? Probably not, since she hastened to the Judean hill country. On the other hand, we know from long-standing Catholic tradition that St. Joseph insisted on Mary riding on an animal on their trip to Bethlehem. So our Lady didn’t have some kind of Super-Woman pregnancy, either. She had to endure all the usual discomfort and fatigue.

Yet she sang her Magnificat, glorifying the Lord for making her a mother. The Mother of God, and the Mother of Sorrows. She glorified the God of Abraham for making her the mother of the Redeemer who would suffer for all–thereby giving her a share in the same dark night of faith that Abraham had to endure. She praised God for giving her a life not of “freedom” or ease or comfort, but of pure daily obedience to Him.

lippi abraham knife strozzi chapel

Amazing faithfulness. Of course! She’s the immaculate one. Can we even begin to relate?

Yes, in fact. I think we can. Mothers can. And fathers can, too. And spiritual fathers.

“Independence” is not what it’s cracked-up to be. The idea that preserving my autonomy and my personal space and my liberty to do whatever I want—the idea that such “freedom” will make me happy? No. Same thing goes for ease and comfort. Ease and comfort get boring.

Nothing really makes life full and happy, except having duties of love to fulfill. We social animals were made to take on duties of love, and to fulfill them.

Now, the people we have the duty to love selflessly—our flesh and blood; spouse; brothers and sisters in church; neighbors—these people we have the duty to love selflessly: they can be pains in the butt. They keep us up at night. They give us colds. (You don’t think we celibate priests wind up getting all your colds? We’re the last ones to drink from the chalices at every Mass, when we rinse them and consume all the remaining drops and fragments.)

Pains in the butt, these people we have a duty to love. But we praise God. We proclaim the greatness of the Lord. For giving us people we love as our own, who give us colds. He made a promise of mercy to Abraham, to give him a son to worry about. And Abraham rejoiced with inexpressible joy. Our Lady rejoiced with inexpressible joy to have a son, Whom she would have to follow to the cross. And we rejoice, too, that God has given us people that we have a duty to love.