Tag Archives: Hail Mary

32nd Sunday C: Thinking About Death

Audio Homily here:

How do we want to die? I think we’ll be hearing that question more frequently after our current elections are over. “End of life” decisions are going to be part of the political agenda in the future. In our society we’ll be facing a range of questions about death and dying.. 

Let’s think about the term “end of life” first. If we listen to our first reading from the Book of Maccabees, the seven brothers who are put to death for defying their Greek conquerors and keeping their Jewish faith don’t see death as an end of life. “You are depriving us of this present life,” one of the brothers says, “but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.”

The seven brothers see this life as given to them by God, who is master of life and death. Life doesn’t end. We are in God’s hands from the beginning. It’s for God to decide when we die, but God promises life beyond death. It’s for us to remain faithful as long as we live.

We hear in today’s gospel people denying that there’s life after death and trying to bait Jesus with what they think are absurd circumstances. Jesus tells the Sadducees  that life beyond this life is not the same as here on earth. A heavenly life is beyond what we can imagine.

So denying life beyond death isn’t new. Today we can hear the same denial of eternal life, the life that Jesus promises and shows us in his resurrection. One of the signs of that denial may be, I think, the increasing number of suicides, even among young people. We can see this life as our only life, and when circumstances become seemingly intolerable and seemingly hopeless, some unfortunately end their earthly lives. But we leave them to God’s mercy.

Today death often goes unmentioned. We don’t want to talk about it. We just want to think about life. But death is an important part of life.

There was a passage in a popular book some years ago by Carlos Castenada about an old Indian, Don Juan, and a young sophisticated scientist from the northeast, walking together in the desert in the southwest. The two are world’s apart in the way they think. 

As I recall it, the old Indian says to the young man, “Did you see the White Eagle circling over your shoulder?”

“ Yes, I see it,” the young man replies.

“That’s your death, keep an eye on it.”

“That’s a morbid thought,” the young man says, “We don’t think about that any more.”

“You should,” Don Juan says, “Keep an eye on your death. It will keep you from being small-minded.”

The young man’s describing the way a lot of people look at life today. We don’t want to think about death. We’re thinking more about extending life here on earth, through better diet, better heath care, better exercise;  we don’t like to think of a life ending in death.

But we should keep death in mind. Death is the door to another life. By ignoring it we can limit ourselves to a life too small, too self-centered, too brief. We need to see life as God sees it.   Life is not ended in death, it’s changed.

So death  is not something to be ignored; it is one of the two most important moments in life. That’s why we say in the Hail Mary. “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Hail Mary

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We say “our” Father in the Lord’s Prayer because prayer is not something we do alone. We pray to God with Jesus Christ and others. In prayer, we go together to God as children of God.

We pray with Mary, the mother of Jesus and all the saints, because we’re united to them  in Jesus Christ.

In the Hail Mary, Mary the Mother of Jesus leads us to God.  The prayer’s earliest form  developed  in the middle ages with the simple greeting of the angel Gabriel at Nazareth, from St. Luke’s gospel:
Hail Mary,
full of grace,
the Lord is with you.

You are favored by God, the angel announces to her. She would bring Jesus Christ into the world. That message continues through the ages and is meant also for us.  Like her, we are favored by God and bring his Son into the world.  God’s promise of grace to Mary echoes in God’s promise to us. As it was promised  to Mary, God will be with us.

Over time her cousin Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary, also recorded in St. Luke, was added to the prayer:
Blessed are you among women
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

Finally by the 15th century, the remainder of the prayer appeared:
Holy Mary, mother of God,
pray for us sinners
now and at the hour of our death.

The prayer asks Mary, full of the grace of her Son, to intercede for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. She is a model for believers and knows what it means to believe. She who knew her Son so well, can teach us  the way to him.

On Calvary Jesus entrusted her to us as a mother when he said to his disciple “Behold your mother.” Ever since, she brings Christ into this world. She knew Jesus from the beginning and witnessed his life, death and resurrection. She helps us to know him. She also knows our needs. Aware of  the needs of the newly married couple at Cana in Galilee, she approached Jesus, her Son. She is aware of our needs too.

By the end of the 16th century the practice of saying 150 Hail Marys in series or decades of 10 became popular among many ordinary Christians. With her help they remembered  the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. That practice of prayer is known now as the Rosary.

Mary is a model of faith and a companion of Christian believers. When the angel Gabriel came to her, she believed the words he spoke even to the dark test of Calvary. She helps the family of believers on the journey of faith.

The Hail Mary and the Rosary are blessed prayers,  simple and profound. They’re not beyond anyone’s reach; their repetition brings peace to the soul. They draw us into  the joys, sorrows and glory of Jesus, the world Mary knows so well.  We hope to “imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through Christ, Our Lord. Amen”

We will be celebrating the Feast of the Assumption of Mary at the end of this week.

Mission: Plainville, Ct April 4

Learning from Jesus Christ

We know Jesus Christ through the scriptures, and one goal of the Second Vatican Council was to promote the reading of scripture in the liturgy and catechesis of the church.

Scholars and believers have brought new insights from the scriptures into our faith and our church.  Our task now is to let the scriptures nourish our prayer and our reflections on our faith.

That’s a goal of our mission this week.

In the morning Masses we are going to reflect on the daily readings for Lent.

In the evening services for Monday and Tuesday we are going to reflect on the part of the Gospel of Matthew called the Sermon on the Mount which is read in the first part of lent. Jesus, our Teacher, tells us how to live and how to pray.

On Wednesday, we will go to another mountain, Mount Calvary, to learn from Jesus how to love.

This morning, the story of the official who approaches Jesus asking that he heal his son who is dying draws our attention to the mystery of death. Why does it happen? What does Jesus teach us about death?

He came to conquer death. “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life, Lord Jesus come in glory.”

The two most important moments of our life are now and at the hour of our death.

Holy Mary, mother of God,

pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.