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Celebrating the longest day of the year

by davesandel on June 20th, 2020

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Celebrating the longest day of the year                   (today’s lectionary)

In Urbana, the summer solstice arrives at 4:43 pm today. The sun will rise at 5:23 am and set at 8:25 pm – 15 hours and two minutes. So this is the longest day of the year.

God is so good.

From Aleteia:

On the Friday following the Sunday following the Thursday following Trinity Sunday … that’s a mouthful … there is a great solemnity in our Church. On this day, we contemplate the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced, burning with love for us, surrounded by a crown of thorns as he continues to suffer.

And then the following day, which is today, comes the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The two solemnities always arrive back to back. Nothing separates the heart of Jesus from the heart of his mother.

In our images Mary’s heart is shown outside her body, entirely given over to the Lord in love for him and for his people. Her heart burns with love for God, a love that pours out to the billions of children she has been called to mother.

Mary’s heart is covered with roses, pure and sweet but also graced with thorns. Thus our sufferings can be transformed into a thing of beauty. Mary’s heart immaculate invites us to purity, mortification and joy in sacrifice.

I think of Maximilian Kolbe, who founded the Militia of the Immaculata and gave his life in a WWII concentration camp for another inmate with family. The other inmate lived for decades after the war. I have spent many days over the last nine years in St. Maximilian’s national shrine at Marytown in Libertyville, Illinois, in three Transforming Communities learning the spiritual practices that move me and many others into Christian maturity and humility.

So much politics colored Kolbe’s life, and of course it colored the life of Jesus, and the life of Mary. Three hundred years after Jesus’ lived, St. Augustine described what he called the City of God, a world resembling what Eden might have been, long admired but rarely accomplished. Jealousy and greed separate us, and then separate us again, and again, and again, and again, and at last we are lost.

Walt Whitman said a great nation-state needs poets more than presidents to lead it, because poetry leads us into a city more resembling Eden. This is because politicians press the life out of individuals for the good of the whole, and then people are only seen as “dreams or dots,” rather than the men and women God made them to be.

While in Jerusalem celebrating Passover, Jesus left his mother and father to visit with and discuss religion with the priests and scribes in the Temple. He was twelve, and they did not expect him to go off like that. Till now his life had been quiet and obedient. He was a fast learner, of course, and upon reflection Mary and Joseph understood Jesus’ focus on what he called “his Father’s work.”

But surely none of them knew what they were about to be getting into. Jesus would upend traditional understanding, re-interpret the prophets, and call every leader worth his salt out onto the street for debate in front of the people. Now as a young man learning, he studied the scrolls of the Torah and the prophets and the psalms and quickly grasped the key point: God the Father was completely faithful, full of mercy even in the face of the rankest betrayals by his people, who supposedly were the second partner in Abraham’s covenant with Yahweh.

Stories like that of King Joash in 2 Chronicles might have both confused and incensed Jesus. Joash started out so well but ended up so badly. Did righteous anger rise up in the innocent breast of Jesus? His cousin John’s dad was named after Zechariah, the brave man who stood up to the political powers that be and then been killed, foolishly and unfairly, by their idolatrous leader, Joash.

What did Jesus think of a story like that? How did he pray? What did his Father tell him, preparing his only begotten son for the ministry coming so very quickly? My mercy I will not take away, even as they violate my statutes and ignore my commands.

God abandoned Joash to his enemies. God certainly did not abandon Jesus. He may, however, have taught Jesus with this story and others what Jesus eventually taught his own disciples:

I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be wise like serpents and yet still, always, innocent as doves.”

Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

       (2nd Chronicles 24, Psalm 89, Luke 2)

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