Yesterday we honored the Sacred Heart of Jesus with a joyful celebration. Today we celebrate a “companion feast” – really a continuation of yesterday’s feast. We continue to love, honor, and praise the Heart of Jesus, but we do so with a greater awareness that we are together with Mary our Mother. In loving him, we are doing what she is doing. So today we honor the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Again, we understand the symbol of the heart to represent the whole person of Mary, especially her interior life.
These feasts bring to a glorious conclusion the series of major feasts that flow from Pentecost: Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi, Sacred Heart, and Immaculate Heart. The Sacred Heart reveals the undeserved and unmatched love of God for man. The Immaculate Heart reveals the finest human response of love to this divine love. Mary responded to the gift of Jesus’ love with perfect love, “immaculate” love.
Like the devotion to the Heart of Jesus, devotion to the Heart of Mary has developed over the centuries. Mary herself gave it a special encouragement in 1917 when she appeared to the three little shepherds of Fatima and told them, “To save poor sinners, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.” This devotion is rooted in the Scriptures. We find two references to Mary’s Heart in the Gospel of Luke: “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2:19); and, “His mother kept all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:51).
What do we find when we look deeply into the Heart of Mary? We find a fully human response, but unblemished by sin. We find everything that should be part of our own response to God. It is like a great storehouse, a treasury, where the mysteries of God are kept and pondered continually. Looking into this treasury in this Year of St. Joseph, we benefit from the guidance of Joseph, the man who, after Christ, knew Mary’s Heart best. Joseph, who for many years lived in profound communion with her, can show us more deeply the treasures that she stores up in her Heart.
The Gospel reveals the inner dispositions in the Heart of Mary as we follow her and Joseph back to Jerusalem looking for their twelve-year-old Son. What were their emotions as they searched for him? What fear, grief, concern, sorrow, remorse! When they find him, they are “astonished.” Are they astonished that he is teaching in the temple, or that he went off on his own in the first place? Mary laments, “Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” No doubt their hearts were pierced by Jesus’ reply: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
This incident in the life of Holy Family gives us insight into the humanity and normality of their life together. As the parents of the Son of God, Joseph and Mary were not protected from the challenges, practical demands, and inevitable misunderstandings that go with living in this world. After their return to Nazareth, Mary “kept all these things in her heart.” So did Joseph. As a loving and caring father, together with his wife, he certainly pondered all that happened in their life with Jesus. As we continue own journey in life, we ask Mary and Joseph to lead us deeper into the mystery of life with Jesus our Lord. They teach us what St. Paul means when he speaks about living “no longer for ourselves but for him.” Mary and Joseph do not live for themselves but totally for Jesus.
“They did not understand what he said to them.” Often, we too do not understand the mysterious and sometimes contradictory ways of God. Mary teaches us to continue pondering, to keep searching out the meaning of his words and actions. We all “lose” Jesus at times because of our sins, our weaknesses or fears, our lack of love, or simply because we are so easily distracted. Mary teaches us that when we lose Jesus, we must make a diligent effort to find him. She shows us how and where to find him, in the temple – that is, the temple of our own hearts, where God dwells. Mary’s Immaculate Heart, then, is our model. She draws us to her Heart, so that we may find and love what she herself treasures, the Heart of Jesus.
Do I implore St. Joseph to show me more deeply the treasures that Mary stores up in her Heart? In humility, will I implore Mary and St. Joseph to help me not to live for myself but totally for Jesus? When I lose Jesus because of sin or weakness, do I seek him in the temple of my heart where he dwells?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 17, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.