Blessed is she who believed (Lk 1:45)
58. In the parable of the sower, Saint Luke has left us these words of the Lord about the “good soil”: “These are the ones who when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance” (Lk 8:15). In the context of Luke’s Gospel, this mention of an honest and good heart which hears and keeps the word is an implicit portrayal of the faith of the Virgin Mary. The evangelist himself speaks of Mary’s memory, how she treasured in her heart all that she had heard and seen, so that the word could bear fruit in her life. The Mother of the Lord is the perfect icon of faith; as Saint Elizabeth would say: “Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45).
In Mary, the Daughter of Zion, is fulfilled the long history of faith of the Old Testament, with its account of so many faithful women, beginning with Sarah: women who, alongside the patriarchs, were those in whom God’s promise was fulfilled and new life flowered. In the fullness of time, God’s word was spoken to Mary and she received that word into her heart, her entire being, so that in her womb it could take flesh and be born as light for humanity. Saint Justin Martyr, in his dialogue with Trypho, uses a striking expression; he tells us that Mary, receiving the message of the angel, conceived “faith and joy”. In the Mother of Jesus, faith demonstrated its fruitfulness; when our own spiritual lives bear fruit we become filled with joy, which is the clearest sign of faith’s grandeur. In her own life Mary completed the pilgrimage of faith, following in the footsteps of her Son. In her the faith journey of the Old Testament was thus taken up into the following of Christ, transformed by him and entering into the gaze of the incarnate Son of God.
59. We can say that in the Blessed Virgin Mary we find something I mentioned earlier, namely that the believer is completely taken up into his or her confession of faith. Because of her close bond with Jesus, Mary is strictly connected to what we believe. As Virgin and Mother, Mary offers us a clear sign of Christ’s divine sonship. The eternal origin of Christ is in the Father. He is the Son in a total and unique sense, and so he is born in time without the intervention of a man. As the Son, Jesus brings to the world a new beginning and a new light, the fullness of God’s faithful love bestowed on humanity. But Mary’s true motherhood also ensured for the Son of God an authentic human history, true flesh in which he would die on the cross and rise from the dead. Mary would accompany Jesus to the cross (cf. Jn 19:25), whence her motherhood would extend to each of his disciples (cf. Jn 19:26-27). She will also be present in the upper room after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, joining the apostles in imploring the gift of the Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14). The movement of love between Father, Son and Spirit runs through our history, and Christ draws us to himself in order to save us (cf. Jn 12:32). At the centre of our faith is the confession of Jesus, the Son of God, born of a woman, who brings us, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, to adoption as sons and daughters (cf. Gal 4:4).
60. Let us turn in prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of our faith.
Mother, help our faith!
Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call.
Awaken in us a desire to follow in his footsteps, to go forth from our own land and to receive his promise.
Help us to be touched by his love, that we may touch him in faith.
Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him and to believe in his love, especially at times of trial, beneath the shadow of the cross, when our faith is called to mature.
Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One.
Remind us that those who believe are never alone.
Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path. And may this light of faith always increase in us, until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord! (Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei 58-60)
Saint Peter’s Square
Sunday, 12 July 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In this Sunday’s Gospel passage (cf. Mt 13:1-23), Jesus tells a great crowd the Parable — that we all know well — of the Sower, who casts seeds over four different types of terrain. The Word of God, symbolized by the seeds, is not an abstract Word, but rather Christ himself, the Word of the Father who became flesh in Mary‘s womb. Embracing the Word of God therefore, means embracing the person of Christ; of Christ himself.
There are several different ways to receive the Word of God. We may do so like a path, where birds immediately come and eat the seeds. This would be distraction, a great danger of our time. Beset by lots of small talk, by many ideologies, by continuous opportunities for distraction inside and outside the home, we can lose our zest for silence, for reflection, for dialogue with the Lord, to the point that we risk losing our faith, not receiving the Word of God, as we are seeing everything, distracted by everything, by worldly things.
Another possibility: we may receive the Word of God like rocky ground, with little soil. There the seeds spring up quickly, but they also soon wither away, because they are unable to sink roots to any depth. This is the image of those who receive the Word of God with momentary enthusiasm, which however, remains superficial; it does not assimilate the Word of God. In this way, at the first difficulty, such as a discomfort or disturbance in life, that still-feeble faith dissolves, as the seed that falls among the rocks withers.
We can also — a third possibility that Jesus mentions in the parable — receive the Word of God like ground where thorny bushes grow. And the thorns are the deceit of wealth, of success, of worldly concerns… There, the Word grows a little, but becomes choked, it is not strong, and it dies or does not bear fruit.
Lastly — the fourth possibility — we may receive it like a good soil. Here, and here alone does the seed take root and bear fruit. The seed fallen upon this fertile soil represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, safeguard it in their heart and put it into practice in everyday life.
This Parable of the Sower is somewhat the ‘mother’ of all parables, because it speaks about listening to the Word. It reminds us that the Word of God is a seed which in itself is fruitful and effective; and God scatters it everywhere, paying no mind to waste. Such is the heart of God! Each one of us is ground on which the seed of the Word falls; no one is excluded! The Word is given to each one of us. We can ask ourselves: what type of terrain am I? Do I resemble the path, the rocky ground, the bramble bush? If we want, with the grace of God, we can become good soil, ploughed and carefully cultivated, to help ripen the seed of the Word. It is already present in our heart, but making it fruitful depends on us; it depends on the embrace that we reserve for this seed.
Often one is distracted by too many interests, by too many enticements, and it is difficult to distinguish, among the many voices and many words, that of the Lord, the only one that makes us free. This is why it is important to accustom oneself to listening to the Word of God, to reading it. And I return once more to that advice: always keep a handy copy of the Gospel with you, a pocket edition of the Gospel, in your pocket, in your purse … and then, read a short passage every day, so that you become used to reading the Word of God, understanding well the seed that God offers you, and thinking with what soil do I receive it.
May the Virgin Mary, perfect model of good and fertile soil, help us, with her prayer, to a steadfast soil without thorns or rocks, so that we may bear good fruit for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters.