- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 21, 2006

The following are excerpts of a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Daniel F. Hanley at St. Mary Catholic Church in Alexandria.

Jesus speaks plainly in today’s Gospel. He no longer veils with parables, but reveals the “pearl of great price.” He opens before us the reality that allows us to say, “Our Father.” He says: “As the Father loves me, so I love you.” We can easily pass over this line as straightforward, but it is an amazingly rich statement that reveals the heart of the Gospel.

Jesus says that we are given the very same love that is within the Trinity. We can never fully grasp such a huge thing as the love that dwells within God. We know, however, what this love looks like here on Earth. It is manifested in the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus, the total giving of oneself for the sake of the other, even in the face of all hardship and pain.

We also know that St. John the evangelist, in his first letter, repeatedly tells us that “God is love.” If love is what God is, then when Jesus gives us this love, He gives us access to the life of God. When we freely accept this great gift, we allow God to unite with us and adopt us.

God does not just assign the name “son” or “daughter” to us, but unites with us and raises our dignity. He comes and takes up His dwelling in us. He lives in us in an active relationship that transforms every part of us with His life. He moves in us and transfigures our being as a light does crystal, illuminating us with the brilliance of His grace. It is this reality that explains the phenomenon of a life like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, her incredible love and sacrifice.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that this transformation has not fully taken hold of us. We are weak and resistant. The most cursory examination of our day tells us that we often fail to allow God to accomplish all that He can in us, and we often act against His will. We realize that the work of God’s life in us is an ongoing process, in which He heals our faults and raises our mind to Him. We often need help and guidance to persevere.

God knows this and sends us many helps. Often, it is in the form of fellow Christians who pray for us and teach us. God could accomplish His will in any way He chooses, but He desires to entrust us to each other to grow in His love. If God uses us here on Earth to nurture His life in man’s heart, how much more will a holy soul united with Him in heaven be able to join in His work? They are still people able to love and act, and are closer to God than any of us still in the world. We have always firmly believed that people in heaven pray for us and aid us on our journey, and there is no saint more suited to join in God’s plan of redemption than the blessed Virgin Mary.

God chose to make her indispensable in His work of salvation. Again, God did not have to do it this way. He is God. He can do anything any way He wants, but He chose to make His work dependent on her, a lowly creature. Through Mary, God the Son became our Brother that we might become children of the Father and heirs of His love and life. If God can rely on her to bring us the new life of His love, we can certainly trust in her prayers and guidance to nurture that life within us.

Mary is particularly suited to help us in our effort to live as followers of Christ and true children of the Father. She walked the same path in her own life that we are called to travel. She was the first and perfect disciple of Jesus, always united to Him. The first moment we meet her in the Bible, she says to the Lord , “Let it be done unto me according to Your word.”

John Paul II reflected that this joyful reply of abandonment to God’s will when the angel asked her to be the mother of God was repeated throughout her life. She continued to say “let it be done unto me according to Your word” as she saw her Son hunted by Herod and fled to Egypt with Him, and when she heard the predictions of His death by Simeon in the temple. Throughout her Son’s Passion — as she saw Him rejected and brutalized by men and her heart broke within her as she stood at the foot of the cross — she kept trust in God. She knew the Passion, with all its horror, was God’s will, and though she did not fully understand it, she repeated her prayer of trust to “let it be done unto me.” She has done perfectly what we strive to do, and it makes sense that God would give us such a teacher.

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