Saturday, May 6, 2017

“O Mary, We Crown Thee with Blossoms Today!” - A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Cycle A

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
May 7, 2017

Many years ago, in the city of Alençon, France, a handsome watchmaker and a beautiful lacemaker passed by each other on a bridge. For the young woman – Azélie – it was love at first sight; she inquired around town, discovered the identity of the man – whose name was Louis Martin – and arranged to meet him. When the two officially met, it was all over...they were immediately smitten and fell in love with each other. After a short courtship and engagement, they married in the summer of 1858 and took up hearth and home together. For the Martin’s, their Catholic faith was everything to them. It impacted how they loved each other, how they lived their lives, how they ran their business, and how they raised their children. The love of God and love of neighbor permeated their home through and through. Every evening the Martin family would gather around the fireplace where Louis would lead his family in prayer, and on the mantle was a beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Louis and Azélie instilled within their daughters a deep love for Mary so that they, in turn, could come to a deeper love of Christ. From a young age the little Martin girls knew that Jesus gave His Mother Mary to the whole world as a Mother – even to them! – and so each of them, in their beautiful childlike faith, desired to love Mary as Jesus did and to love Jesus as Mary did. After prayers every night, Louis would allow each of the girls to pay some special homage to Mary; the older girls were fond of kissing Our Lady’s outstretched hands, but the youngest – Marie Thérèse – would often bring some flowers she had picked from the meadows to lay at Our Lady’s feet. Who would have thought that those simple evenings at the Martin home in Alençon would have been so life-giving for the rest of the world? Each one of the Martin children entered religious life, both Louis and Azélie were canonized saints in 2015, their middle daughter Marie Léonie is currently being considered for sainthood, and their youngest daughter – who would set France and the world on fire with her Little Way – became, in the words of Pope Pius X, the “greatest saint of modern times.” Saints Louis and Marie-Azélie...Servant of God Marie-Leonie Martin...Sisters Marie-Louise, Marie-Pauline, and Marie-Céline...and the great Saint Marie-Thérèse of Lisieux: one little family that burst with amazing holiness. And there is no doubt in my mind that this is all due to the love, protection, and intercession of the Mother of God.

This week we have begun the beautiful month of May...the month of Mary. As we bask in the glory of the Lord’s resurrection and joyfully celebrate the promise of eternal life that He has offered to us, we are reminded in this great month of one of the greatest gifts that He has given to us: the gift of His own Mother. Catholics are given a lot of gaff for their devotion to Mary...we’re accused of everything from worshipping her to ignoring Jesus in favor of her. All of this is, of course, a veritable load of baloney. We know that the Church Christ established, the Church born from His side on the Cross, the Church set on fire by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, is a family...and what family would be complete without a mother? Chosen from among all women and graced beyond measure, the simple maiden of Nazareth was given the incredible honor of bearing the Son of God in her womb. Everything human about Jesus...His eye color, His hair color, His DNA, His blood...it all came from Mary. She was and is and ever shall be His true and real Mother, and because in holy baptism He makes us His brothers and sisters, we are able to call upon Mary as our Mother as well. Not for a moment does she take the place of God...not for a moment does she overshadow Jesus Christ or what He has done for us. On the contrary, Mary glorifies God with her whole being and helps us to see more clearly what the Savior of the world has accomplished. Her holy life completely magnifies the Lord...she shows us what it means to give up your whole life in service to God and she shows us the glory that awaits us when we do so. And from her home in heaven, she is able to intercede powerfully for us all before God Himself...she is able to love us in the way only a mother can and, in turn, we are able to love her deeply as the Mother she is.

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Our Gospel reminds us that, in Christ, we are all gathered into one flock by our one Shepherd. There can be no lone sheep; we are all in this together as a family. It is in this sheepfold, in this family, that we are all given the chance to live the abundant life, to love and to be loved in the way that we were created for. And while we indeed relate to our Good Shepherd individually, we also relate to Him collectively. Mary is the heartbeat of the Church, of our family, of our flock...her heart beats endlessly in love for our Shepherd and it beats endlessly in love for us. We give thanks today for her maternal heart, and in gratitude to God for the gift that she is to the Church, we honor her and we ask for her intercession. And just as the Martin family showed their love and appreciation for her through external signs, through their little acts of devotion, we do the same today. Our children, like the Martin girls, will crown our statue of Mary with flowers and with love, announcing to all the world that she is our Queen and the honor of our race. May our love for Mary, expressed today and all days, lead us to ever deeper love for Jesus Christ.