Friday, December 28, 2012

On the Third Day of Christmas My True Love Said to Me....

"True religion is caring for orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27). Joseph made a choice to put that true religion into practice when he decided to care for and protect Mary and her son, Jesus." (Anna Higgins)
"Seeing his closest friend die on the Cross was certainly the most painful experience of his life. He and Mary were suited to care for each other because they shared in the same suffering. They had both lost their greatest and most perfect Love." (Br. Bonaventure Chapman, O.P.)
"The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him." (Genesis 2:18)
On Thursday, the Catholic Church celebrated the Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, who is said to be the author of the Fourth Gospel, the three Epistles of John, and the Apocalypse, or Revelation.

John is also one of two men (besides her father) who consented to care for the woman God chose to be Jesus' mother—which means, I think, that it is also not good for a woman (not even the woman sometimes referred to as "the Mother of God") to be alone, and that a woman too needs a "helper."

Mary conceived her son without the help of a man and "by the power of the Holy Spirit" (according to a 1973 translation of the seventeen hundred year old Nicene Creed). What sort of help did she need from a man? And what sort of men did God provide?

According to the Bible, Mary was a virgin when she conceived and gave birth to Jesus; according to Church Tradition, she remained a virgin for the rest of her life on earth. This means that her husband, Joseph, was also chaste. And John? According to Tradition, he too was a lifelong virgin, and nothing in Scripture disputes that teaching.

These sex-free relationships were, even in Jesus' time, as they certainly would be in ours, countercultural. Yet, in terms of love, they lacked nothing and fostered much.

What effect, I wonder, did the celibate love that Joseph lived out for Mary and Jesus have on our Lord's ability to "advance in wisdom and age and favor before God and man" (Luke 2:51-52)? Luke's Gospel tells us that Jesus' growth and development were the result of his obedience, not just to his much-discussed and honored mother, but to "them," meaning both Mary and Joseph.

And how important was the celibate love between John and Mary to John's poetic Gospel and to his beautiful, challenging letters? Did it help him to write this:
"What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life—for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:1-3)
The "we" and "us" in this passage must of course have included Mary.

"Whoever claims to abide in him," meaning Jesus, writes John in 1 John 2, "ought to live just as he lived." In 1 John 3 he continues, "What we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure." As Jesus is pure, as His mother is pure, as John himself is pure. For many more than understand and practice it, this means living, and loving, just as Mary and Joseph did, as Mary and John did.

For women who have discerned this need, may God provide as He did for the mother of His Son.

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