Maryland Women’s Conference
“Mary, Cause of Our Joy”
St. Joseph Parish, Fullerton
October 24, 2020
It is a joy to celebrate the opening Mass of the 2020 Maryland Women’s Conference. With you, I am most grateful to Fr. Jesse Bolger and to St. Joseph Parish for hosting this conference in this outdoor venue that enables as many of us as possible to gather in person. And to all who organized this year’s conference, in spite of all the obstacles, please know of my appreciation for your diligent, persevering, hard work. In God’s grace, may your efforts bear the abundant fruit of the Gospel in your lives, the lives of your families, and all those you encounter. I will also pray that the Lord bless you and your families as we continue to struggle against the coronavirus – and the threats and limitations which it has imposed upon us and our world. May the Lord deliver all of us from this scourge, especially those who are most vulnerable.
In this challenging time in our personal lives and the life of our Church and Nation, you have wisely chosen as your theme “God made us for joy” … a quotation that comes from Pope St. John Paul the II: “God made us for joy. God is joy, and the joy of living reflects the original joy that God felt in creating us.” How important that we not allow the threats and divisions of these days rob us and our families of the authentic joy that God has in mind for us.
But how do we maintain a sense of joy when the times are difficult? How do we resist the temptation of falling into discouragement? How do we avoid looking to the future as if we were staring into an abyss? On this Saturday in October, permit me to suggest that we turn to the Blessed Mother, and ask her to help us rediscover and maintain a sense of joy in our lives. Indeed, let us turn to Mary as “the cause of our joy” – for more than anyone else, Mary has given us and the world cause for rejoicing.
Joy, a Fruit of the Holy Spirit
When we hear the word “joy”, we tend to think of it as an emotion. It is a feeling of happiness, well-being, contentment, oneness with others. We may also think that it is our duty, no matter how we may feel, to conjure up joy, to manufacture it in our hearts, to pretend that we are joyful, keeping, as it were, the proverbial “stiff upper lip”. Yet, when we speak of joy in conjunction with our faith, let us remember that joy is not something we create. Rather, it is a gift and fruit of the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts, the Spirit who opens us to the wonder of God’s truth and love, the Spirit who enables us to encounter and to know Jesus Christ, the Spirit who pours out upon us the gift of God’s merciful love, the Spirit who sends us forth to proclaim the joy of the Gospel. For that reason, we refer to the Holy Spirit as “the oil of gladness” – and in Baptism and Confirmation we were indeed anointed with “the oil of gladness”. Our “job” is not to manufacture joy, but rather, like Mary, to be receptive the gift of joy that comes from God.
How Mary Is the Cause of Our Joy
No human being was more receptive to the joy of the Holy Spirit than was Mary, and no human being brought more godly joy to the world than did Mary. From the very beginning of her existence, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary was kept free from the stain of original sin. Indeed, “her blessed birth heralded joy for all the world.” In the power of the Spirit, she was steeped in the living Word of God, and experienced the abiding joy of all the holy ones, the remnant of Israel, who, with fidelity and patience, awaited the fulfillment of God’s promises. But Mary’s joy was not destined to be confined solely to her person. In God’s plan, she was destined to be the cause of our joy.
In the power of the Holy Spirit, she conceived the only begotten Son of God. “Her virgin-motherhood brought forth the true Light, the source of all joy!” In the mystery of the Nativity, she gave us Jesus who would save us from our sins and fill our hearts with the light of God’s glory, that joy for which God created us. In spite of her questions, Mary fully accepted her role in God’s plan of salvation thus demonstrating for us that obedience to God’s designs is always the path to true peace and joy in our lives: “Be it done to me according to your Word!”
No sooner had Mary learned that she was to become the Mother of the Savior, than she began sharing the joy of the Good News with others, especially her cousin Elizabeth, advanced in years, and now in her sixth month. In bringing Jesus to Elizabeth, the Mother of John the Baptist, she brought her cousin joy, so much so that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb “leapt for joy!” As our spiritual mother, Mary continues to bring Jesus to us and to lead us to Jesus. As she draws close to us, and we to her, let us rejoice, as did Mary and Elizabeth! Let us share their sense of wondrous joy, repeating Mary’s words daily: “My soul rejoices in the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my Savior!”
Mary also shows us the way to joyful discipleship. It was she who, as it were, prodded her Son to working his first miracle at Cana, and it was she whose life was conformed completely to the teachings of her Son. While she no doubt felt a mother’s anxiety as her Son put himself in harm’s way, she never wavered in her role as Jesus’ first and best disciple, even as she accompanied her Son to the foot of the Cross. Mary teaches us to maintain our sense of peace and joy even in times of anxiety, trouble, and sorrow! Blessed is she who heard the word of God and kept it!
So too, in the Upper Room at Pentecost, Mary prayed with the first disciples as the Holy Spirit swept through that place and inflamed their hearts. Mary was a mainstay in that early Christian community as it went out to bear witness to Christ and gathered for the Eucharist. So too, Mary accompanies us as we strive to bear witness to Christ in our days and as we gather for the Eucharist as God’s Holy People. And from her exalted place in heaven, Mary remains our sister and our mother, praying with us and for us as she beckons our homeward steps to that joy, that glory, that utter goodness for which God created us. With such a friend in heaven, how can we not be confident and joyful?
There is no better way to experience the joy Mary imparts to our souls than by praying the Rosary every day … for the Rosary is how we see Christ through the eyes of Mary. As we pick up our rosaries, we may be filled with worries and sorrows, even anger, so much so that we may even find ourselves almost going through the motions. Yet, as the rosary beads are impressed, again and again, on our fingers, something of Mary’s peace, joy, and goodness is also impressed upon our souls – as the angel’s greeting, “hail full of grace”, resonates in our hearts and as the life of Jesus, the lover of our souls, unfolds before our eyes. In those moments of intimate prayer, we can ask Mary for anything, knowing she will intercede for us and lead us to accept God’s will as she did, for in his will is our peace!
Throughout this grace-filled day and throughout your lives, may you indeed experience in ever greater measure the joy for which God created you, and with Mary’s help and prayers, experience the joy of living in such a way that you reflect the original joy that God felt in creating you. And may God bless you and keep you always in his love!