Monday, May 4, 2015

Bonus Points

Acts 9:26-31
Psalm 22
1 John 3:18-24
John 15:1-8

You may recall that I didn’t go to seminary directly out of high school, but did a couple of years at LSU and then transferred. I see that time as filled with the handiwork of God in many ways, one of those being my experience of math courses. When I took the placement test they said I should be able to start with intro level calculus, so I signed up for it. My first day in class made it abundantly clear to me that I was in over my head, so I withdrew and signed up for a lower level course. The next year I signed up for calculus again, this time a bit more prepared. Looking back, I believe it rather providential that I took the course that semester because on the first day of class the teacher announced that we’d all get bonus points each time the Tigers won a football game – that was the year we won the national championship. God is good! When it came time for grades to come out I looked as found that I passed with a D. Barely. It turns out those bonus points came in quite handy and helped me get exactly the number of credit hours needed to enter the seminary as a junior instead of a freshman. Admittedly, I should have studied a lot more and worked a bit harder, but the bonus points still helped me to get somewhere that I wouldn’t have been without them.

In the reading we heard from Acts, we find the story of Saul trying to join up with the newly-formed Church, but not making much headway. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, considering that not long before he was moving from place to place in search of Christians in order to kill them and extinguish ‘the Way’ as the Church was known. It is understandable that the Christian community was reluctant to welcome him, knowing that his conversion might be a hoax and only a means of adding more names to his long list of victims. In the midst of this situation we find the person of Barnabas, who acts as an intermediary to bring Saul into the community. Saul could certainly have spent a good while trying to prove himself a Christian and convince the community that his conversion was a genuine one, but the presence of Barnabas was of great assistance in speeding the process along. And Saul’s entry brought forth a leader and apostle whose works are still read and whose evangelical efforts are still bearing fruit.

As we begin this month of May, the Church has traditionally seen it as a time to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and to encourage devotion to her. She does so because sees in the Blessed Virgin a sure means of growing closer to Jesus Christ with great speed and ease. This, after all, is the entire purpose of Mary’s life: making Christ present. When she said yes to the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation, it wasn’t just to the Incarnation of the Son of God in her womb, it was to the entire plan of God. Bearing the Son first in her womb, she now seeks to bear Him into our hearts and bring us to Heaven that we might adore Him alongside her for all eternity. She is constantly at work carrying out the will of God and pouring His grace upon us, though we may remain unaware. And this I would like to work on myself: awareness of Mary’s care.

Again, the Church offers this month as a time to encourage devotion to Mary, so I want to invite/encourage/challenge you to join me in doing so. Each evening in front of the Church we will be praying the Rosary. Come join us! If you can’t make it then, pray it another time in the day – pray it as a family, get a group together and pray it, pray it on the way to work. You can also do a novena to Our Lady for some specific intention and see the how powerfully she works. Get a book and read about her life, about devotion to Mary, about the rosary, about Marian apparitions over the centuries. And if none of those seem do-able to you, then at least take a statue of Mary and place it in a prominent place in your home where you’ll remember daily the spiritual care she is exercising over you. Think about it – what if you put a statue of Our Lady in your kitchen sink? You’d certainly notice her a lot more often and would cause you to reflect that much more on her. Regardless, the key is to grow in devotion to Mary because as St. Louis de Montfort said, the surest, quickest, and easiest way to Jesus is through Mary. We can spend many hours working on growth in virtue, rooting up vice, and practicing Christian charity toward others, but the simple fact is that what takes us years to accomplish, Mary can bring about in mere minutes. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to grow close to our heavenly mother this month because, just like bonus points, she is incredibly helpful in making things happen that we might never expect otherwise.

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