National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Jesus and Mary Show Us How to Be Holy

User’s Guide to Sunday

BY Tom & April Hoopes

Tom and April Hoopes

March 14-27, 2010 Issue | Posted 3/8/10 at 11:00 AM

 

Sunday, March 21, is the Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year C, Cycle II).


Papal

On March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, Pope Benedict XVI will meet with the youth of Rome and Lazio, Italy, at 8:30pm in St. Peter’s Square to prepare for World Youth Day.


Feast Days

March 25 is the name day of our child who is named after Mary. We chose the Annunciation for her name day because she was baptized on this day. She is our only child who gets to celebrate her baptismal day and name day at the same time.

We have seen many responses to saint days and baptismal days among our friends.

For us, name days — or “your saint day” as we usually call it — are an occasion for small gifts. We go to Mass if possible on a child’s saint day and request a special blessing from the priest.

Friends of ours have the beautiful tradition of celebrating baptismal days.

They take the child out for breakfast on her baptismal day and give gifts. This acknowledges that the day of your baptism is far more important than the day of your birth — because your baptism is the anniversary of your access to the eternal life of heaven, whereas your birth is just a stage in your early life. (See “Celebrate Your Birthday in the Church” at NCRegister.com for more ideas.)


Readings

Isaiah 43:16-2; Psalm 126:1-6; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11


Our Take

Last week, the irony was that the reading about the Prodigal Son falls in the same week as the reading about St. Joseph.

This week is also ironic: We hear about the woman caught in adultery in the same week we hear about the Annunciation. The irony plays on the doctrine of Mary’s sinlessness and the fact that Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” It’s obvious to us that Mary, even though she is “she who is without sin,” would never cast a stone at the woman caught in adultery.

This draws sharp attention to the fact that truly holy people are not like the supposed holy people who wanted to punish the sinful woman. Truly holy people don’t hate sinners or feel threatened by them.

But, of course, truly holy people like Mary are also utterly different from the adulterous woman.

So, what are truly holy people like?

The Gospel itself gives us a clue.

The first two sentences are: “Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the Temple area.” Why doesn’t the Gospel just start with his arrival in the Temple area? Because it’s key to the story that he went to the Mount of Olives.

The Mount of Olives is where the agony in the garden would take place. It’s a place associated with Christ taking our sins on himself and choosing to suffer for us.

The implication here is that Jesus went to the Mount of Olives for one of his all-night prayer vigils precisely while the woman was committing adultery. That night, three things were going on: A woman was committing adultery. Pious men were catching her at it. Jesus was praying for them all in the garden where he would say Yes to the Father and take their sins on himself.

We will, later in the week, see in the Annunciation Mass how Jesus’ actions echo Mary’s. She, too, is praying privately (we presume) when the angel comes to greet her. She is told she has found favor with God and is given the opportunity to participate in a wholly unique way in God’s plan to save sinners. She says “Yes” to the Father and becomes a cooperator in the work of redemption.

Far from wanting to stone others, she accepts a difficult life in order to help them.

That’s what a truly holy person does: Avoids sin. Prays for sinners. Says Yes to the difficult task of serving others at one’s own expense.

Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.