Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary
Tidal Basin, Washington DC, Photo by Erinn Shirley
Reading 1 GAL 3:7-14
Realize that it is those who have faith
who are children of Abraham.
Scripture, which saw in advance that God
would justify the Gentiles by faith,
foretold the good news to Abraham, saying,
Through you shall all the nations be blessed.
Consequently, those who have faith are blessed
along with Abraham who had faith.
For all who depend on works of the law are under a curse;
for it is written, Cursed be everyone
who does not persevere in doing all the things
written in the book of the law.
And that no one is justified before God by the law is clear,
for the one who is righteous by faith will live.
But the law does not depend on faith;
rather, the one who does these things will live by them.
Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,
for it is written, Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree,
that the blessing of Abraham might be extended
to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus,
so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Responsorial Psalm PS 111:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart
in the company and assembly of the just.
Great are the works of the LORD,
exquisite in all their delights.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
Majesty and glory are his work,
and his justice endures forever.
He has won renown for his wondrous deeds;
gracious and merciful is the LORD.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
He has given food to those who fear him;
he will forever be mindful of his covenant.
He has made known to his people the power of his works,
giving them the inheritance of the nations.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
Alleluia JN 12:31B-32
The prince of this world will now be cast out,
and when I am lifted up from the earth
I will draw all to myself, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 11:15-26
When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd said:
“By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons.”
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
“When an unclean spirit goes out of someone,
it roams through arid regions searching for rest
but, finding none, it says,
‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’
But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order.
Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits
more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there,
and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”
Commentary on Luke 11:15-26 From Living Space
“There are none so blind as those who will not see.”
In today’s passage Jesus frees a person from enslavement to an evil power which had rendered him mute, so that he could not speak. (In Matthew’s version of this story, the man is also blind.) As Christians, many of us can suffer from the same evil influence when we refuse or are afraid to acknowledge openly our Christian faith. We hide and we remain silent, especially when the values we hold are attacked or ridiculed. Once liberated, the man could speak and he did so, much to the amazement of the crowd. Let us, too, pray for this gift of speech, to be able to say the right thing at the right time.
But there were those present who accused Jesus of using the demon’s power to drive out the evil spirit. At the same time, in spite of the extraordinary signs that Jesus was initiating on almost a daily basis – including the one they had just witnessed which caused such astonishment among the people – his enemies asked him for a sign from God.
There is a clear gap between the leaders and the people here. While the leaders keep asking Jesus for his credentials, the people are shown as constantly praising and thanking God for all that is being done among them through Jesus.
Jesus then shows the self-contradictions in his opponents’ charges. A kingdom that is split by internal rivalries cannot survive. Why would evil spirits attack each other and so frustrate their goals? And, Jesus asks his accusers, when their own people drive out demons, by whose power do they do it? “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out devils, then the reign of God is among you.”
When people are liberated from the control of evil spirits, that is a sure sign that the loving power of God is at work. Any other interpretation does not make sense. And the ‘reign of God’ is personified and embodied in Jesus himself. It will also become present in his disciples who do his work.
And Jesus goes on to give another image. A strong man guarding his house and possessions remains undisturbed until someone stronger comes and overthrows him. That is clearly what is happening. Jesus is the stronger one and the evil spirits are being driven away by him. They are helpless before him. This liberation of people and society from evil powers is one of the most dramatic proofs that the all-powerful reign of God is present in the person of Jesus. What further signs could be asked for?
“The man who is not with me is against me, and the man who does not gather with me scatters.”
There can be no neutrality where Jesus is concerned. We have to make our choice – for him or against. Not to choose is itself a choice – against him. Compare this with the similar but actually quite different saying with one we saw earlier (9:50): “Anyone who is not against you is for you”.
This was in the context of the Apostle John complaining that he saw a man cast out demons in Jesus’ name. In so far as that nameless person was doing Jesus’ work and doing it in Jesus’ name, he was with Jesus. That surely has implications for the many good things that non-Catholics and others who are not Christians at all are doing.
And this saying about the non-acceptance of neutrality leads to another warning. It is not enough to have been liberated from the power of an evil spirit. Otherwise it may come back “to find the house swept and tidied” and bring even worse spirits with it. The end result is that the person’s situation is even worse than before. No, the emptiness left by the departure of the evil spirit has to be actively filled with the Spirit of Jesus.
Was Jesus referring to some of the people around him, especially his critics, who, by their meticulous observance of the Law, saw themselves as morally blameless but in whose lives the positive presence of the Spirit, as exemplified in Jesus himself, was totally absent? This is something we need to reflect on with regard to our use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
It is easy to use the sacrament to get the forgiveness of our past sins and leave it at that. To have the feeling of now having a clean slate. Nature may abhor a vacuum but the devil loves one! The true reconciliation that the sacrament calls for demands a new and stronger commitment to the living of our Christian life. The sacrament is intended to be an experience of conversion and change. It is much more concerned with the future than with the past. The past is gone and there is nothing we can do about it. The present is in our hands and that is where we meet God.
“All these joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” That Mary is mentioned specifically with the rest of the apostles at the beginning of the Church implies that she had gained a prominent position in the Church. She was highly regarded by the early Christian community, including the apostles. As the mother of Jesus and therefore of the body of Christ in an analogous sense, since she is both mother of the Church and a member of the Church, she is able to offer her maternal support.
This maternal role of Mary in the Church is most fitting for her. We read in the gospel of John the incident at the Wedding at Cana. Mary, a woman of charity and compassion, has always been looking out for others. She was extremely sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. Her first action following her election to be the mother of our Lord was not to celebrate or announce to the whole world how great and worthy she was to be chosen for the role. Rather, her immediate concern was her cousin Elizabeth who, in her old age, was pregnant and that she would need her assistance. Again, we notice this maternal solicitation of Mary when the newly wedded couple ran short of wine for the celebration. Her immediate instinct was to let her Son know the predicament they were in.
Indeed, this maternal role of Mary for the Church was also intended by our Lord Himself. When asked to help the newly wedded couple, His response to Mary was “My time had not yet come.” In other words, it was not time for Him to reveal His glory. It was also not time for her to assume her role as the mother of the Church. (cf Jn 2:1-12) Regardless, on account of the faith of Mary, the Lord anticipated His glory by changing the water into wine. But when the hour had finally arrived, when our Lord was hanging on the cross, Jesus said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.” To the disciple Jesus loved He said, “Here is your mother.” And we read, “From that hour the disciple took her into his own home.” (cf Jn 19:26f)
In the light of what we have said, it is fitting therefore for Mary to assume her rightful place in the early Church. Her role was to point people to her Son. Just as she brought the situation to Jesus and told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you”, she too wants to continue to lead the early Church to our Lord. (Jn 2:5) For this reason, she stood with Jesus until the end when He was on the cross; and with the apostles in the Upper Room praying continuously as they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit. What would they be doing for nine days before Pentecost and how did they pray continuously?
Besides vocal prayers, praying the psalms, Mary would have shared with the apostles the life of Jesus. Indeed, we know that the prayer of Mary was more contemplative than vocal. We hardly hear her speak in the gospel. But we find her always contemplating, pondering and reflecting on the events of salvation. In today’s gospel she too asked the Angel how it could be possible. She was always seeking understanding of the mystery of God’s plan in her life. We can be sure that just as she contemplated the significance of the birth of Jesus when the magi came to pay their respect to the Lord; or when Jesus was lost at the Temple or when Simeon made the prophecy how He would be the cause of the rise and fall of many, Mary would have spent much time contemplating and reflecting on these events in her life. The rosary, therefore, principally is not a vocal prayer but a prayer of contemplation on the history of salvation, particularly the lives of Jesus and Mary. Through a prayerful contemplation of their lives, we seek to be united with them in mind and heart so that we could also live a life of faith, love and compassion.
Contemplating on the history of salvation, beginning with Abraham until the arrival of our Lord, would have given the early Christians much strength and hope. “He protects Israel, his servant, remembering his mercy, the mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his sons forever.” Mary was able to connect for us the unfolding of God’s plan in Christ, beginning from the Old Testament. In this way, as expressed in the Magnificat, she would have given new strength and courage to the early Christians.
Most of all, Mary would have spoken about the marvels of God in Christ and recounted with the disciples all that Jesus had said and done. Through contemplation on the marvels of God we certainly find courage to face the future. “He looks on his servant in her nothingness; henceforth all ages will call me blessed. The Almighty works marvels for me. Holy his name! His mercy is from age to age, on those who fear him. He puts forth his arm in strength and scatters the proud-hearted. He casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly. He fills the starving with good things, sends the rich away empty.’ Such is the greatness and mercy of our God who comes to the help of the weak and the humble. This was a necessary reminder to the disciples because before they could be sent forth they needed to be reminded to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and not their own strength. Most of all, they needed to keep themselves humble before the Lord so that God can work in and through them. Remembering the works of Jesus in His ministry would have given them the confidence to do what Jesus said and did.
Besides recounting all the deeds of our Lord, especially His miracles and works of deliverance, she would have helped the apostles to come to know the Lord better, how He felt and His demeanor. Throughout the ministry of Jesus, Mary was always at the background with the rest of the women. As a woman and as all women are, she would have been very attentive to the needs, the feelings and the dreams of Jesus. More so as the mother of Jesus, she would have this intuitive perception of Jesus. Contemplation of our Lord certainly helped the disciples to be prepared before they went out for the work of evangelization. They needed to learn how to be sensitive to the needs of others, to feel with them as the Lord did during His ministry.
Indeed, this is what the rosary is all about. It is a powerful prayer and a continuous prayer contemplating on the life of Jesus and Mary because both their lives were intimately intertwined. To pray the rosary is to join her in contemplating on the life of Christ, His works and words, and the mystery of His person. Indeed, most of the events contemplated in the rosary are fundamentally focused on Christ and less on Mary. This also explains why St John Paul II added five more luminous mysteries to complete our contemplation on the ministry of Jesus in the proclamation of the kingdom. Yet, when we consider all the 20 events of the life of Christ and Mary contemplated, only two refer directly to Mary. Even then, when Mary is contemplated, the focus is never on herself but in relation to Christ and the Church. In the mystery of Our Lady’s Assumption and Queenship, she is contemplated not for herself per se but so that we, as the Church, can remind ourselves that what Mary had already received, we too will be glorified with her at the end of time and reign with the Lord forever.
So, as we celebrate the Feast of our Lady of the Rosary, we are reminded not to pray the rosary in such a way that it becomes monotonous; just a vocal prayer, without uniting our minds and hearts with Jesus and Mary. Most of all, we must try to connect their lives with ours so that we can gain inspiration and insight from them to live our lives more joyfully and meaningfully. Praying the rosary is not just praying to Mary but rather it is to pray with Mary, contemplating on the mystery of salvation, especially the life of her Son. Through our contemplation of the different events in the lives of Jesus and Mary, we can gain insight as how we too can live our lives in such a way that is positive, life-giving and one of faith and hope. And because this form of prayer is so simple, all can pray together, young or old, the simple and the intellectual, and yet all pray according to their depth of relationship as well.
The greatest mistake of the world is that it relies on itself and its efforts. This is what St Paul is cautioning us. We are justified not by good works or simply by obedience to the laws. Good works only, will reinforce our pride and ego, whereas the laws show up our weaknesses, and in our inability to adequately fulfill them, lead us to self-condemnation. For this reason, St Paul warns the Galatians not to go back to the Law since none of us can perfectly observe the Law and by attempting to find justification through the Law, we only condemn ourselves. Thus he concluded, “those who rely on the keeping of the Law are under a curse, since scripture says: Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in observing everything prescribed in the book of the Law. The Law will not justify anyone in the sight of God, because we are told: the righteous man finds life through faith.”
So what is required is faith! Paul argued against the Galatians who returned back to circumcision instead of living in the power of the Spirit. For St Paul, what makes us the people of God is not so much a physical relationship with Abraham expressed in circumcision, but to share the same faith as Abraham. It is faith that assures us of God’s blessings. Thus, Paul said, “Don’t you see that it is those who rely on faith who are the sons of Abraham? Scripture foresaw that God was going to use faith to justify the pagans, and proclaimed the Good News long ago when Abraham was told: In you all the pagans will be blessed. Those therefore who rely on faith receive the same blessing as Abraham, the man of faith.”
For us who live under the New Covenant, this faith is in Jesus Himself who is the New Law, the Law of love and mercy of the Father. Faith in Jesus is the cause of our justification. By surrendering our lives to Him, we will “receive the promised Spirit.” Indeed, we must turn to Jesus the strong man who can help us win the battle against the works of darkness in the world. Jesus was able to cast out the devil “through the finger of God”, that is the power of God. Only Jesus, who gives us the same Spirit that enabled Him to cast out Satan, can help us to overcome the presence of evil in the world and in our own lives. Only through the power of His love and mercy, can we do good. In this way, we can establish the kingdom of God.
Many of us have experienced the power of God in our lives through miracles, healings and personal conversion. However, the danger is that we can become complacent and rest on our past experiences, just like the Jews who became proud and self-righteous simply because they belonged to the race of Abraham. Some Catholics presumptuously think that they are assured of salvation simply because they are baptized!
Truth is, there can be no salvation unless we have faith in Jesus. This faith is not simply trust in Jesus, but a surrender of our entire life to Jesus. Hence, such faith must be expressed in our daily life. This faith should never be taken for granted, but must be nurtured to grow in depth each day. Indeed, there is a danger that too many us, after having been touched by the Lord, do nothing about our faith. These are likened to the parable of the man who, having put his life in order, did not do anything more. Indeed, Jesus said that the unclean spirit that comes out from him will bring “seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.”
How then can we deepen our faith? The weapons against the Evil One and against complacency in faith require both offensive and defensive means. Defensive means of strengthening the faith can be done through ongoing formation. However growing in spiritual life is not simply about praising, worshipping God and listening to spiritual and doctrinal talks. Such defensive means must be complemented by offensive actions as well. It must be manifested in our daily life. We must manifest our faith in good works. In themselves good works cannot save us but they are necessary signs of our conversion. We must complement our faith formation with exercise of good works, service to the Church and to the community. Only by striving to grow in virtues and in grace, can we ward off the temptations of the Evil One.
In the final analysis, to win in this spiritual warfare, we need to be united with Jesus and the Body of Christ, His Church. As Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.” To stay with Jesus requires that we stay with the Church as well. Fighting the battle alone is putting ourselves at risk. We must face the world with Jesus and His Church. As Jesus reminded us, “Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses.” Indeed, being with Jesus and growing with the Church is the key to fight against the secularization of the world today. The key to success in our mission is communion with Christ and with each other.
Tags: forgiveness, gal 3:7-14, gratitude, He fills the starving with good things, JN 12:31-32, Lk 11:15-26, looking out for others, maternal role of Mary in the Church, October 7 2016, one day at a time, Prayer and Meditation, Praying the rosary, Psalm 111, Psalm 9, rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, Sacrament of Reconciliation, service to others, sound the alarm on my holy mountain, stay our of the future, stay out of the wreckage of the past, the history of salvation, The Lord will judge the world with justice, The Lord will remember his covenant for ever, the only day we can influence is today, The present is in our hands and that is where we meet God, the rosary, There Are None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See, There can be no neutrality where Jesus is concerned, to keep themselves humble before the Lord so that God can work in and through them