Friday, August 22, 2008
Friday in the 20th Week of Ordinary Time
Memorial of the Queenship of Mary
Fulfilling the Futile
Readings: Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 107:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; Matthew 22:34-40
Picture: CC Todd Huffman
Today, eight days from the solemn feast of the Assumption, we celebrate the Queenship of Mary. And, quite coincidentally, although the Mass readings are taken from those prescribed for Ordinary Time, they are marvelously appropriate for helping us to reflect upon at least one key characteristic that distinguishes Mary as Queen, as someone whose spiritual authority we respect and revere, as well as strive to emulate. The readings do this by inviting us to imagine two scenes, one involving the prophet Ezekiel, and the other, Jesus the Lord. The first is as dramatic as the other is mundane. Yet, on closer examination, both bear a striking resemblance to each other.
What probably captures our attention most of all in the first reading is the incredible transformation brought about by the power of God’s Word. A valley full of dry bones becomes populated by an immense army. The dead are brought back to life. And what’s even more amazing is that God promises to do the same for the whole House of Israel. God promises to raise them from their graves to the fullness of life. Even so, we may perhaps pause to consider how God chooses to effect this startling transformation through the ministry of Ezekiel. Imagine for a moment what it might have been like to stand in the shoes of the prophet. How might he have felt as he gazed upon that desolate valley reeking with the smell of death? What might have been his initial reaction upon hearing God’s instruction to prophesy to the bones? Speaking to the dead? Could one conceive of anything more futile than that? And yet, the prophet obeys. He trusts in the power of God’s Word, and of the breath of God’s Spirit. He prophesies. And the dead are brought back to life.
We find something of the same defiant hope in Jesus’ exchange with the lawyer in the gospel. Although what Jesus encounters is not quiet a valley of bones, we might be forgiven for making a connection between the scene from the first reading and the dry cynicism of the one who questions the Lord. Could anything be more futile than to converse with someone who seems out only to criticize? And yet, Jesus does not shrink from the encounter. Instead, he uses the opportunity to present an invaluable teaching: the greatest and first commandment.
Which brings us to Mary. For who is Jesus but the Word of the Father? And how does the Father choose to speak this Word except through the generous consent of Mary. Like Ezekiel, relying upon the breath of the Holy Spirit, Mary courageous speaks the Father’s Word of Life over the dry bones of the human race. As futile a project as it may have seemed, and as costly a sacrifice as it might have involved, Mary did not flinch. She spoke. And we were brought back to life. Isn’t this reason enough to proclaim her as our Queen? And not just to proclaim, but also to beg her to obtain for us the same defiant hope that she had. So that even in the face of apparently futile situations – both around and within us – we will yet find the courage to prophesy. As children of so wonderful a Mother, as subjects of so splendid a Queen, can we do anything less?
How, and in what situations, are we being invited to prophesy today?
Posted by Fr Chris at 11:02 am