8 June 2024 - Memory of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

2 Cor 5:14-21; Luke 2:41-51


            After the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, today's liturgical calendar celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And the Gospel chosen for this feast is the story of Jesus' ascent to the Temple at the age of twelve, which ends with the affirmation that Mary kept all these things in her heart.

            This story is taken from the second chapter of Luke. As we know, these first two chapters of Luke are not, as is sometimes said, a Gospel of Jesus' childhood, but a kind of grandiose introduction to his Gospel in which, in highly symbolic stories, Luke announces all the great themes of his Gospel. First of all, he draws a close parallel between John the Baptist and Jesus, emphasising at the same time their difference. At the end of the account of John the Baptist's birth, Luke concludes that ‘the child... grew and his spirit was strengthened... until the day of his manifestation to Israel’. Of Jesus he says that he ‘grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men’. The role of John the Baptist was limited to Israel; that of Jesus extends to all mankind. This is what Jesus says to Mary in today's Gospel: ‘Did you not know that I must be about my Father's interests?’ (which is a literal translation preferable to the one adopted by our current lectionary: ‘Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?)

            John the Baptist, destined to be the last of Israel's prophets, grew up in the desert. Jesus, on the other hand, after affirming that his mission extended beyond his natural family to the dimensions of the great family made up of all the children of God, his Father, returned to Nazareth where he remained subject to Mary and Joseph. This submission and the harmony within the family of Nazareth are in proportion to its openness to the universal mission of Jesus. This is why this Gospel is also read on the feast of the Holy Family

            Whenever a human group - whether a couple, a community or a nation - selfishly closes in on itself, internal conflicts become unmanageable and lead either to the break-up of the group or to the export of conflicts in quarrels or wars with other groups or nations. Conversely, whenever a human group is open to communion with other groups and to involvement with them in a common project, it easily manages its internal conflicts.

            This is the example given in today's Gospel. Jesus' “escapade” creates conflict within the Holy Family. Mary scolds Jesus: ‘Why have you done this to us? But Jesus' openness to the affairs of his heavenly Father, beyond the small family circle, is assumed by Mary, who ponders these things in her heart, even if she cannot yet understand them. Not only is the harmony within the family of Nazareth maintained, it is deepened. While Jesus became autonomous, he remained submissive. He grew in both autonomy and submission.

            Mary keeps all these things in her heart, even without fully understanding them, just as she had kept in her heart the prophecy of the old man Simeon who had foretold her that a sword would pierce her heart. She is the model for all contemplatives.

Armand Veilleux