Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mother Church

Readings for Sunday, November 13:
Proverbs 31:10:13, 19-20, 30-31
Psalm 128:1-5
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Matthew 25:14-30

Very often in the selection of the texts for a Sunday Mass, the readings clearly tie together. We can see at least some surface-level connections without too much digging. When I read the readings for this Sunday however I have to admit it gave me pause to think. The letter from St. Paul and the gospel both speak about the coming of the Lord, the need for attentiveness, and the final judgment of each soul. In stark contrast to that we find these beautiful, poetic pieces from the Book of Proverbs and the Psalms about the value of finding a worthy wife who is fruitful like a vine. It seems almost as if it were accidental; that someone cut and pasted the wrong scriptures to the weekend’s readings list. And yet, if we look closely and dig a bit, we find that there is a key that unlocks for us the connection between these seemingly unconnected passages: Mother Church.

In the scriptures, the Church is often described as a bride and the spouse of the Bridegroom. As spouse of the Bridegroom, she also conceives children and leads them on the path of salvation. Thus we can see that as wife of the Bridegroom, she is also a mother – our mother.

In our current religious culture, we don’t often hear the Church referred to as Mother Church. So often we are encouraged to ourselves as the Church, rightly so in a sense. But as we begin to think of ourselves as ‘Church,’ it is easy to forget that ‘The Church’ – the Catholic Church - is something much larger and more glorious. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “Salvation comes from God alone; but because we receive the life of faith through the Church, she is our mother…. Because she is our mother, she is also our teacher in the faith.” (CCC 169) So strong was the realization of this relationship to the Church as Mother in the centuries past that St. Cyprian once said, “No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother.” Quite a statement, and yet we realize the absolute truth in it because it is only by way of Mother Church’s teaching and guidance that we are even able to know and call upon Christ as Savior and God as Father.

As a mother educates her children about the world around them, teaching them words, concepts, truths and values, so too does our Mother, the Church, educate us in the things of God, teaching us the faith, encouraging us along the path of Truth toward holiness and salvation. (CCC 171) Scripture elsewhere tells us that the Church is the pillar and defender of Truth; if this is so, then it means that she herself must know such Truth in order to defend it. And if she knows the Truth, then we ought to listen to her and follow the way she sets before us. To do so is to find ourselves always prepared. Our lives, when given over to her, will bear much fruit and will be a rich harvest for the Lord. We will be those servants who were given five talents, and raised five more; or the ones given two talents, who raised two more. Not holding anything back, as the last servant, we are able to come before the Lord and joyfully present to Him on the day of our judgment the fruits of our labor in His service.

Let us turn to our Mother, that worthy wife of the Heavenly Bridegroom, and entrust ourselves to her maternal care and find in her the assurance of our salvation.