Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross made all who believe in Him eligible to call Him “my brother.”
But only one human being throughout all history calls Him “my Son.”
She is Mary, mother of Jesus and mother of His Church.
“Let us try to fathom the profound depth of God’s love for us — not only giving us His Son but giving us His Son’s mother as our mother also, as our spiritual mother,” said Bishop W. Shawn McKnight.
He offered this year’s first outdoor Mass at the altar of the National Shrine of Mary, Mother of the Church, in Laurie.
It was May 24, the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church — feastday of the shrine.
Pope Francis in 2018 called for the Blessed Mother to be honored each year under her ancient title of Mother of the Church on the day after Pentecost Sunday.
The Mass in Laurie drew about 120 people, including members of the Knights of Columbus and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
The bittersweet aroma of wildflowers and incense filled the valley, along with a hint of gentle rain.
Bishop McKnight pointed out that referring specifically to Mary as Mother of the Church dates back at least to St. Ambrose of Milan in the fourth century.
“He was the first that we have evidence of having written down those very words, ‘Mary, Mother of the Church,’” the bishop noted.
St. Ambrose rightly observed that since the Church is the Body of Christ, “then the mother of Jesus is also our mother.”
Jesus said as much while dying on the cross, when He entrusted His mother to the beloved disciple, and by extension to the whole Church.
“And so we have that profound mystery,” said Bishop McKnight, “the significance of what it means to be a mother and how we as human beings need our mother.”
That mystery gives insight into how God wants to be worshipped and served.
While administering the Sacrament of Confirmation, Bishop McKnight often asserts that Fear of the Lord is probably the least understood of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
“The Fear of the Lord is not to be afraid of God,” the bishop insisted. “In revealing the loving, merciful Father, Jesus taught us not to be afraid of God but to trust in His love.”
The bishop asserted that a proper understanding of Fear of the Lord is akin to “fear of your mom.”
“As children, we have a respectful fear of our mother, but not a fear out of someone who doesn’t want what is good for you,” said Bishop McKnight.
Rather, “it is a fear of disappointing someone who loves you so much,” he said.
The same must be said of anyone who seeks to follow Christ and know the way of the Father.
“Fear of the Lord,” said Bishop McKnight, “means not wanting to disappoint God the Father — Who loves us so much to give us His Son — and Whose Son loved us so much, He’d even give us His own mother as our own!”
In doing so, Jesus joins His earthly family with His spiritual family, and they become one.
“What a profound mystery!” said Bishop McKnight. “You and I, having been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, have become adopted sons and daughters of God the Father and therefore co-heirs with His Son, Christ the Lord.”
The only appropriate human response to this great mystery is gratitude, expressed in everyday life by following Mary’s advice to “do whatever (Jesus) tells you.”
“May her prayer, the gift of a mother’s love, be our joy for all ages,” the bishop prayed.
He then led the praying of the “Hail Mary” for all mothers, including those whose names are inscribed in the Mothers’ Wall of Life at the shrine.
Joining the bishop at the altar was Father John Schmitz, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Laurie and the Mission of St. Philip Benizi in Versailles, and spiritual director of the Mother’s Shrine.
Deacon David Lovell assisted them.
At the end of Mass, Fr. Schmitz thanked Bishop McKnight and everyone who helped bring the celebration about.
“May our Blessed Mother continue to shower her blessings upon all of us and honor all of our hard work to give honor to her and to give glory to her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ,” Fr. Schmitz said.