Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Mary among the poor: Our Lady of Mount Carmel: July 16th

This feast was instituted by the Carmelites between 1376 and 1386 to celebrate the victory of their order over its enemies on obtaining the approbation of its name and constitution from Honorius III on 30 Jan. (so it's not a celebration that has a very holy origin! This is a little disappointing!)  The feast was assigned to 16 July, because on that date in 1251, according to Carmelite traditions, the scapular was given by the Blessed Virgin to St. Simon Stock; 

 St Simon Stock receiving the Scapular from our Lady

  Reflections:  Celebrating feast days like this one is not something that is usually of great importance to my own spiritual life. However, last summer, I was privileged enough to be in a small Venezuelan town called Guasdualito for the celebration of Our Lady. In this small town close to the Columbian border, Our Lady of  Mount Carmel was taken rather seriously. She was after all the Patron Saint of the town. The festivities for her celebration lasted about a week. -the 2nd biggest religious festivities in this part of the World next to Christmas!- For a week, one of the priests and I went around town with the Statue of our lady. Each night, a different family would keep the statue in their house, and would host all of their neighbors for a small feast. Then on the Sunday of the Feast Day, it was a whole other experience for me: Little girls dressed as Mary; boats carrying the statue, pilgrims, and priests across the River to the house of another family that was hosting everyone for a quick morning service; a procession across town, where Catholics and non Catholics alike were stopping to gaze at the statue and the people carrying it; and of course, the most colorful array of flowers, clothes and of food I had ever seen. It was an incredibly joyous week of festivities, and it made it so much harder for me to leave this little town.
 I realized, that although I still didn't fully understand the devotion that some people have to such feast days, I could only feel deep joy at the faith of this people, and the love that they clearly felt for Our Lady in that moment. I've always known that our Mother was especially close to the poor, but on this day, I felt how much closer they were to her, how much joy her presence among them brought to people of all ages.

 I sometimes wonder, how much closer the people of Israel would have been to God! How much more joy they would have felt knowing that the divine had chosen their little rag tag group of people as a chosen people, a holy people.  Indeed, the Patriarchs mentioned in Genesis each had a very special intimacy with the great divine, but that intimacy would take on a new level with Moses, and it is his story that we begin to follow this week.
 It was a rather mystical moment for me during Mass today, to follow that link between Joseph the Dreamer (whose dramatic story closes off the book of Genesis), and Moses.  How different their stories were, and yet, how similar their attitudes to God. How open they were to God's fidelity, how eager they were to share that faithfulness of the Divine with their people. How their own faith would be tested with time; how both were called to serve God's will for the people in their own unique way. Finally, how both would begin their journey in a rather difficult situation, and would be asked to put their trust in God's work in their lives. Like Abraham, they were chosen because of that faithfulness..not because of their 'good looks'!! And with time, they would get to prove to their people, and to the world, the richness that such a faith can bring.

 In a way, I think this is the link that the Patriarchs and Moses have with the people of Guasdualito and other people living in poverty...they experience a different kind of wealth that brings them more joy than all the riches of the world could provide: The wealth of Faith...the faith that God, who is faithful to his children always provides so much, even in times of grief and sorrow. This is why in the Psalms, we often get that dichotomy (as we did with Tuesday's Psalm) of the poet/Psalm writer weeping, mourning, suffering...and at the same time praising God for what he has given us. What gives them the courage to behave this way? Trust. Confidence that the Lord Does indeed hear the cry of the needy. That even if God doesn't give us what we WANT...but he provides us with the essentials...or inspired by  Dr House, I could quote the 'great Philosopher' Jagger: " You can't always get what you want...but if you try sometimes you might find, you get what you need "

 I have a feeling the reason why we get Gospel passages like the one we had on Tuesday,is because  Jesus was fed up with so many of his contemporaries who failed to learn this lesson. They not only failed to hear his own Gospel of truth brought to them with great love and devotion, but they simply failed to perceive how God worked in the world, all the gifts that God gave to the people. And out of frustration for their blindness...he threatens them with the Judgement of the Lord. Even our Beloved Jesus lost his patience once in a while! It makes for a challenging read nonetheless!

 Blessings on the rest of your week!

Exodus 2: 1 - 15

1Now a man from the house of Levi went and took to wife a daughter of Levi.
2The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.
3And when she could hide him no longer she took for him a basket made of bulrushes, and daubed it with bitumen and pitch; and she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds at the river's brink.
4And his sister stood at a distance, to know what would be done to him.
5Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, and her maidens walked beside the river; she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to fetch it.
6When she opened it she saw the child; and lo, the babe was crying. She took pity on him and said, "This is one of the Hebrews' children."
7Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?"
8And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Go." So the girl went and called the child's mother.
9And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this child away, and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages." So the woman took the child and nursed him.
10And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son; and she named him Moses, for she said, "Because I drew him out of the water."
11One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people.
12He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
13When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together; and he said to the man that did the wrong, "Why do you strike your fellow?"
14He answered, "Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid, and thought, "Surely the thing is known."
15When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh, and stayed in the land of Mid'ian; and he sat down by a well.

Psalms 69: 3, 14, 30 - 31, 33 - 34

3I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.
14rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.
30I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
31This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.
33For the LORD hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds.
34Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves therein.

Matthew 11: 20 - 24

20Then he began to upbraid the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.
21"Woe to you, Chora'zin! woe to you, Beth-sa'ida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
22But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.
23And you, Caper'na-um, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
24But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you."

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