The Irish Martyrs (opt. Memorial); The Immaculate Heart of Mary (Opt. Mem., see below)
After Jehoiada's death the officials of Judah came and did obeisance to king Joash and the king listened to their advice. They abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and served the sacred poles and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs. Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the Lord; they testified against them, but they would not listen.
Then the spirit of God took possession of Zechariah son of the priest Jehoiada; he stood above the people and said to them, "Thus says God: Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has also forsaken you." But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the Lord. King Joash did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah's father, had shown him, but killed his son. As he was dying, he said, "May the Lord see and avenge!"
At the end of the year the army of Aram came up against Joash. They came to Judah and Jerusalem, and destroyed all the officials of the people from among them, and sent all the booty they took to the king of Damascus. Although the army of Aram had come with few men, the Lord delivered into their hand a very great army, because they had abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors. Thus they executed judgment on Joash.
When they had withdrawn, leaving Joash severely wounded, his servants conspired against him because of the blood of the son of the priest Jehoiada, and they killed him on his bed. So he died; and they buried him in the city of David, but they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings.
I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations. (R./)
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.
I will make his posterity endure forever
and his throne as the days of heaven. (R./)
If his sons forsake my law
and walk not according to my ordinances,
If they violate my statutes
and keep not my commands. (R./)
I will punish their crime with a rod
and their guilt with stripes.
Yet my mercy I will not take from him,
nor will I belie my faithfulness. (R./)
Jesus said to this disciples, "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you נyou of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, "What will we eat?" or "What will we drink?" or "What will we wear?" For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today."
Our first reading continues the series of outrages committed by the royals who should have followed the example of king David, the faithful shepherd of Israel. Today's reading continues the story of King Joash. Led astray by the gentry in Jerusalem, he forgot the heroic loyalty of friends who had saved his life as a child and later brought him to the throne. He forgot his origins, ("Scorning the base degrees by which he did ascend"), king Joash executed Zechariah, the high priest whose father Jehoiada had saved the life of Joash years before.
Jesus says, "Let tomorrow take care of itself. Today has troubles enough of its own." It is more vital to live today than to worry about tomorrow. Life itself is more basic than sumptuous food, the body more valuable than elegant clothing. It is not healthy, psychologically, much less Christian, to be too attached to fancy foods or stylish clothing.
We need to review our priorities, "Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap, yet your heavenly Father feeds them." Selfish or sensuous desires lead to all sorts of trouble, as is well illustrated in today's first reading, about the fall from grace of the once promising king, Joash of Jerusalem.
Worrying stems from our awareness of the vagaries of life and cannot be completely banished from our minds. Parents worry about their children. Relatives worry about each other. Young people worry about their future.
Jesus himself must sometimes have worried about his disciples, and the poor response of his contemporaries to his message. So he hardly means 'don't ever be concerned about anything.' He says, don't set your hearts on food, drink and clothing, or make them your main concern. Setting our hearts on such things would be pure paganism or hedonism.
It is really about getting our priorities right, in line with Christ's own priorities. He says, 'Set your hearts on God's kingdom first, and on his righteousness.' Don't be so anxious about food, drink and clothing that there is no room left for doing God's will. The beginning of the Lord's Prayer lists the real priorities, 'Hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.' These were Jesus' concerns and should be ours as well.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.
My heart exults in the Lord,
I find my strength in my God;
my mouth laughs at my enemies
as I rejoice in your saving help. (R./)
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the weak are clothed with strength.
Those with plenty must labour for bread,
but the hungry need work no more.
The childless wife has children now
but the fruitful wife bears no more. (R./)
It is the Lord who gives life and death,
he brings men to the grave and back;
it is the Lord who gives poverty and riches.
He brings men low and raises them on high. (R./)
He lifts up the lowly from the dust,
from the dungheap he raises the poor
to set them in the company of princes,
to give them a glorious throne. (R./)
Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day's journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." He said to them, "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
The Catholic Church uses some inspired words of Old Testament Scripture to capture the idea of Mary as the favoured handmaid of the Lord. Today we apply to her a lyric image from Isaiah: "He has clothed me with the garments of salvation and covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." This feast celebrates her purity of heart, or what we might today call her personal integrity.
Devotion to the Heart of Mary grew up in parallel, but at a lesser pitch than that of devotion to the Heart of Jesus, but gaining in popular appeal through the preaching of Saint John Eudes. Then after the 1830 Apparitions to Catherine Labouré at her convent on the Rue du Bac in Paris , in 1836 of a society was established in Paris dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The devotion gained impetus through the apparitions of our Lady to three devout young children at Fatima, central Portugal, in May 1917 . Since then devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary has gradually spread through the whole Church, greatly helped by its warm espousal by Pope Saint John Paul II.
The main difference between it and the devotion to the Heart of Jesus is that the latter emphasises the Sacred Heart as being full of love for mankind, while devotion to Mary's heart is focussed on the love that her heart has for Jesus, her Son, and through him, for the Eternal Father. The Marian devotion is not an end in itself, since the love of her heart is meant as a paradigm for the way we should love God. So as in all of Mariology, she leads us closer to God, rather than becoming an alternative object of devotion, still less an obstacle to our worship of God. The focus on her heart as immaculate or sinless means that she is uniquely able to really love God the way God should be adored. Honouring Mary's Immaculate Heart is another way of honouring her as the one chosen to be the Mother of Christ, recognising her extraordinary holiness and the immense love she had for Jesus as his mother, drawing her to share and co-operate in his redemptive sufferings.
The focus of this devotion is to unite mankind to God through Mary's heart, through a process of consecration and reparation. We may consecrate ourselves to Mary's Immaculate Heart as a way of being completely devoted to God, with Mary as our intermediary in this process of consecration. Because of the analogy between Jesus and Mary, consecration to Mary's Immaculate Heart is linked to consecration to Jesus' Sacred Heart, to which it remains subordinate and dependent.
The theme of repentance from sin, prominent in the Fatima apparitions, has been central to the preaching of Christianity from the time of the Apostles: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt 3:2). The idea of reparation for our own sins and, because of a common membership of the mystical body of Christ, for those of others, is an extension of early Christian mysticism. As Saint Paul said: "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, the church ." (Col 1:24)
We celebrate the Immaculate Heart of Mary the day after the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The closeness of the two celebrations reflects how close was the heart of Mary to the heart of her Son. The traditional image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus includes his heart pierced by a lance, a heart that has suffered for love. The heart of Mary is also a pierced heart, spiritually and metaphorically. When Jesus was presented in the Temple, Simeon predicted to Mary, "a sword will pierce your own soul too."
Today's gospel makes it clear that Mary, like her Son, knew the pain that love can bring. When at the age of twelve, Jesus went missing in Jerusalem, and Mary and Joseph went enxiously looking for him. This story echoes the pain of loss, which is every parent's pain, and the pain of anyone who has ever deeply loved someone else. Jesus' answer to Mary, "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?" shows how even as a boy of twelve Jesus was aware of a greater aim than whatever ambitions Mary and Joseph had for him.
Mary had to learn to let Jesus free, even in his youth. More painfully, she had to leave him free as an adult, to set out on his dangerous mission to change the hearts of his people. And ultimately, as he hung from the cross, she had to let him go into the hands of his eternal Father. That he was able to hand him over in this way was because her own heart belonged fully to God. That is what we mean by referring to her Immaculate Heart. If our own hearts are devoted to God's purpose for our lives, we too will know how to hand over to Him all those whom we love.