Feast Day: 7 weeks after Easter, this year, Sunday, May 23rd
Last week we stood with Mary at Jesus’ Ascension, and realized that her motherhood is actually a prefigurement for all of our being/becoming disciples of Christ. And so we continued talking about the vocation of marriage, and the call within/beyond that to also being a disciple and saint. The idea seems pretty simple: when you’re in your first few decades of life, figure out if you’re supposed to be a priest (for the guys), religious, or married (or, if worse comes to worse, just find yourself in one of them one day…) and then spend the rest of life figuring out the particular way that you are going to be a saint/disciple within that (pray before work each morning?, volunteer time at the breadline?, go to daily Mass?, read the bible or catechism?)
The image that comes to mind is going to get an ice-cream: first you pick the main flavor (chocolate?, vanilla?, strawberry?), and then you have to choose the mix-ins (peanut-butter?, fudge sauce?, brownies-bits?) Oh, and the rest of life – kids and work and oil changes and watching movies – is the hamburger you already ate for dinner: it takes up most of the calories of the meal, but then, when we have the chance, we go above and beyond all that natural stuff and go out to Coldstone.
But Mary challenges all of us beyond this cherry-on-top idea of vocation and discipleship. We already saw that her motherhood and her discipleship were much the same thing: insofar as she was a good mother, she was a good disciple, and insofar as we are good disciples, we will fulfil the vocational-identity we have been given (as husband and father, or as wife and mother), so the two things are far more interwoven than even the best-blended concrete-mixer. But Our Lady draws us deeper in another way as well, and it is one we discover at Pentecost. Luke continues his narrative:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.– Acts 2:1-4
We know Mary is there because she is part of the “all together” that we saw last at the Ascension, but Luke does not mention it. This allows our imaginations to fill in the details, but it also prompts us to ask how she remains in her vocation as wife and mother? Mary’s Son has departed for heaven. Her husband already passed years before. Now what? Where do you put the sprinkles if the ice-cream is melted?!
And there in the upper room we realize that our Christian identity goes far deeper than merely the unique commitment+particulars that make up our vocation+discipleship. Mary is no less a wife and mother here as when she was in the stable at Bethlehem, but now her feminine vocation as wife and mother is shifted towards the Church, which is conceived with her continued cooperation and receptivity to the Father’s will, and is born as the Holy Spirit once more overshadows her, and all members of Christ’s Body.
This is the reality for every one of us too! Vocation and discipleship are not just parts of our lives, they aren’t just the dessert to top off the meal, they are foundational to our way of being human. We are either male and female, and so we are all called to be husbands/fathers or wives/mothers. That is the way God created us from the beginning, and His love – to which our vocation and discipleship is merely a fitting response – is what draws us into life, and through our life, onto a particular path of making that love present in our own way. Every action we do, every choice we make, every breath we take … all are opportunities to choose love, or not, and if we choose to truly love, then we are on the way of following our vocation, and of being faithful to the particular kind of fatherhood/motherhood that the Good Lord knows will bring us to eternal joy.
– Fr. Dominic Rankin likes to think he has a decent amount of energy and endurance. He also thinks Ven. Fulton Sheen is right when he remarked: “A woman is capable of more sustained sacrifice than man. Man is more apt to be the hero in one great, passionate outburst of courage. But a woman is heroic through the years, months, and even seconds of daily life, the very repetition of her toils giving them the semblance of commonplace. Not only her days but her nights, not only her mind, but her body, share in the Calvary of Mothering. She, therefore, has a greater understanding of redemption, for she comes closer to death in bringing forth life.