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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Mary’s Virginity in the Jewish Understanding

mary.mother.of.jesus.01Catholic churchmen continue to reflect on the mystery of Mary’s virginity although there is unanimity that she only gave birth to Jesus. The other children may have been cousins or children of Joseph from a previous bond; some Church fathers spoke about Joseph as an older man and widower. While there is biblical reference to Jesus’ Mother and his brothers and sisters, note the texts never indicate that Mary is the mother of these brethren.

Virginity was associated with holiness and purity going back to Old Testament days. While it was insisted that it should be brought to the marriage bed undefiled, the emphasis was fruitfulness and progeny. The promiscuous woman was damaged goods and unclean. The barren woman was cursed. We see this latter sentiment with Abraham and Sarah and in the New Testament with Zachariah and Elizabeth. Sacred tradition indicates a similar situation with St. Ann. These women rejoiced because God gave them a child and took away their shame.

“Sons are a birthright from Yahweh, children are a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3).

“Your wife will be a fruitful vine within your house: your children will be like olive shoots around your table…may you see your children’s children” (Psalm 128: 3,6).

Definition of the Immaculate Conception

mary.mother.of.jesus.01All debate would be laid to rest when the consensus of the Church was confirmed with a papal declaration in 1854 by Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus:

“The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of Her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”

Those born in sin must struggle with such truths, both about Jesus and Mary. Even if we repent and abide in the forgiveness of God, sin still has had its impact upon us. Both in terms of concupiscence and memory we must live with what we have done and struggle to avoid future sin. We can know God’s mercy but cannot escape the fact that our sins played a part in the murder of God’s Son. Believers may all the more become fatalistic and complacent about their sinfulness. How many times have we heard someone acclaim, “I am no saint!” The desire to be holy as Mary was holy is frequently absent. Although the apparition in Lourdes in 1854 is within the jurisdiction of private revelation, many judge the Virgin Mary’s message to Bernadette Soubirous as a heavenly confirmation of the dogmatic title. She says, “I am the immaculate conception!”

On the Battle Lines with Jesus & Mary

mary.mother.of.jesus.01Mary responds to God’s will in perfect harmony with her Son. Any stain of sin, no matter how minuscule would have disqualified her as the woman or new Eve who stands in opposition to Satan. The demonic dragon can have no part of her, even for a moment.

A damned spirit, human or angelic, has turned away from the one for whom he was made. If the angels of God always look upon God’s face, the damned avert their eyes. They have rejected LOVE itself. A devil might want to eat you, but he would never want to be your friend. He hates you. He hates God. And yes, he hates himself. The lines are clearly drawn.

We are told to put on Christ. As confirmed soldiers for Christ, he is our uniform. Our weapons are not guns, bombs, swords or arrows. Rather, we are shielded by divine grace and find the sacraments and the life of prayer in our arsenal. We bombard the enemy with prayer and supplications for reparation. Christ makes himself the first casualty but his Resurrection has changed all the rules to the game. God is on our side. We battle for souls while knowing that the war is won in Christ. The stakes are high. The enemy has placed traitors in our ranks so we must be ever vigilant. The price of silver tempted Judas and might sway some of us.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee!

Mary & the God of Goodness

mary.mother.of.jesus.01God is the source of all creation and he is infinitely good. There is no comparable evil deity. Satan is merely a fallen angel, a creature no longer empowered by grace. His rebellion has rendered him perpetually handicapped and disfigured. Out of spite he sought to extend his self-destruction, but God gave our first parents the promise of mercy and redemption. This hope is realized in Christ who is the Son of God and the Son of Mary. Evil is a privation, the absence or loss of a good, notably the life and favor of God. Another term for this favor is grace. Mary has what Satan and all the devils and damned can never have— the life-giving gift of grace. All who accept Jesus in faith as their Savior can have a share in this divine life and abide in the hope of their salvation. It should also be noted that while salvation means union with Christ and solidarity with Mary and the saints; damnation does not imply any kind of friendship or genuine fellowship with Satan and the devils. There can be no true unity or community among the damned, at least none that would bring consolation or solace.

When we look to Mary we find someone filled with God’s presence and deeply in love with him. Love always brings forth life. This was true at her Annunciation when the Incarnation began. It was also true in the Resurrection and Mary’s Assumption when love proved stronger than death.

Mary & the Family of God

mary.mother.of.jesus.01Is God truly our Father and Jesus our brother if we fail to acknowledge Mary as our spiritual Mother? Jesus reveals the face of the Father; but he also directs us to his Mother as our Mother. The analogy of a family is made complete.

One of the greatest challenges and a persistent failure of Christianity is to fully realize the familial nature of the Church. The pattern of a family is stamped upon every level of her structure and reality. God is our heavenly Father. The Pope is called Papa or Father. We call our priests by the title, Father. Similarly, we address both Mary and the Church as Mother. We are kin to Christ and with the saints. Nevertheless, in practice do bishops and priests always manifest the canonical “father-son” relationship? Do pastors really view their parishioners as their spiritual children? Do congregations acknowledge the role of father that belongs to their shepherds? Do we love and care about each another as brothers and sisters? Too often we treat others as strangers who do not matter. Too often pastors allow fatigue to inhibit their work for “the least of the brethren.” Too often gossip and faithlessness leads to disrespect of clergy. Too often dissent or fear of scandal eats away at our solidarity with the Holy Father and the living Church. Mother Mary beckons us to realize our commitment as her sons and daughters, kin to each other.

The Wonder of the Incarnation

mary.mother.of.jesus.01God pours himself into Mary and enters the human family. Mary’s free consent offsets the disobedience of the first Eve. The children of Adam and Eve were born in sin. Christ, the new Adam, will assail the forbidden tree (now made into a cross) so that there might be a new birth of sons and daughters, remade in his likeness.

“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” (Galatians 4:4-5).

A secular world or kingdom can make no sense of the Incarnation. It seeks either to ignore it entirely or to displace the truth with a bombardment of romantic sentiment and/or juvenile fantasy. Christmas becomes a time for sales and shopping. Instead of celebrating Christ, we focus upon ourselves. Children sing songs in school about a red-nosed reindeer or a snowman that came to life one day or a merry old elf who brings presents— but next to nothing about a child in a manger, shepherds and wise men or the joyous hymns of angels. Not wanting to offend those with non-Christian beliefs, we end up offending all religion and people of faith.

The message is never happy holidays but Merry Christmas. Keep Christ in Christmas!

David’s Kingship Enters the Divine Reign

mary.mother.of.jesus.01Because Jesus is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, he joins the kingship of David to his divine kingship. Mary is the vehicle of this union. Now the kingdom of God will begin to break into the world. We see something of this kingdom in the Church. We speak of Mary as the Mother of the Church. She is also envisioned as one crowned among the saints since she is the Queen Mother. Her “fiat” or yes to God continues in her maternal role for the Church, a nation of prophets and a royal priesthood. As I have often preached, every citizen of the Church or kingdom is more than a subject, but a member of the divine royal family.

Mary is the embodiment of Christ’s kingdom and symbolizes the clash between the values of the world and those of our Lord and his brethren. Earthly kingdoms exploit their subjects for power and profit. But Mary is all about humility and poverty in spirit. Her great treasure is Jesus and she would have us both imitate our Lord and see her Son in all our brothers and sisters. She is the Mother of the Gospel of Life, urging us to defend human dignity and rights. Jesus went out to the poor, the sick, the suffering and the marginalized. Like Jesus and Mary, we must be the voice for the forgotten who have no voice of their own.

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