In John 14:23 Jesus makes a remarkable promise to his disciples: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Obedience to the word of Christ opens the door for the love of the Father and the experience of intimacy as the Father and the Son take up residence in the believer’s heart.
The history of the Old Testament can be seen as God trying to establish this “Mi casa es tu casa” (My home is your home) relationship with his people but to no avail. He shared a home with Adam and Eve in the Garden but had to banish them to east of Eden because of their rebellion.
God took up residence in the temple of Solomon, but, in one of the more dramatic episodes in the biblical narrative, the Glory departed from the temple because of Israel’s rampant idolatry (Ezek. 10:15-19). During this time (586 BC), many people in Jerusalem, the City of the Great King, would be exiled to Babylon: what happened in the Garden (the Micro) was now happening on a much larger scale (the Macro) and culminated in God using Jeremiah to give Israel a bill of divorce (Jer. 3:8).
Catholics, who have a cavalier attitude about their walk with God and feel they are exempt from such realities, should read Revelation 3:20, Christ’s words to the Church in Laodicea: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” What’s important to note here is that Christ is seeking a “Mi casa es tu casa” relationship, not with a group of pagans, but with a group of confessing Christians who are alienated from him because their faith is lukewarm (Rev. 3:14-22).
We’ve all experienced a similar dynamic in our interpersonal relationships. Four different female friends who moved in evangelical-charismatic circles with me years ago come to mind.
Over a period of about a decade, three came out as lesbians and one became pro-choice and supported same-sex unions though she remained heterosexual. Though I remained cordial with all of them, these changes did significant damage to our friendships and religious compatibility. Sometimes there are “deal breakers” in relationships that cannot be reconciled.
Against this backdrop of disobedience in ancient and recent history to God’s commandments comes the Mother of God. She shines like the Hope Diamond that is placed on a dark fabric.
Her example is especially relevant as certain scandals have recently come to light in the Catholic Church and wickedness is being exposed in high places. Words like obedience and fidelity may seem quaint to the modern, “cafeteria” Catholic, but, without them, the Church is like an army without marching orders, who is at the mercy of a cunning and bloodthirsty enemy.
Our Lady’s obedience to the word of God created a doorway for the Son of God to literally make his home with her in her womb. It was the brick and mortar of their “Mi casa es su casa” relationship after his birth until his Ascension and thereafter.
It created a profound compatibility: her mind, will, and emotions were aligned with his; her soul and spirit were knitted with his.
Her sanctity undergirded and infused their intimacy and manifested itself in at least five different forms of obedience: (1) to the words of Christ; (2) to Scripture; (3) to Tradition; (4) to the spoken word of God; and (5) to the Eucharist. To use another biblical illustration, Our Lady is like David gathering five smooth stones from the wadi to slay Goliath, who is a type of Satan whom she will crush under her feet.
She obeyed the very words of Christ and told the servants at the wedding at Cana to “Do whatever he tells you.” She also followed his command to be present at Pentecost (Acts 1:14) to fulfill all righteousness even though she was filled with the Holy Spirit from conception.
We follow in her footsteps when, before the Gospel is read at Mass, we make the sign of the cross, with our thumb, on our forehead, mouth, and heart. This signifies that we must understand the text, proclaim it, and put it into practice in the shoe-leather of daily life.
When we read Scripture we should always be focused; when we read the Gospels, we should be focused like a laser.
Luke sums up Joseph’s and Mary’s sanctity in the presentation of Christ in the temple: “And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth” (Luke 2:39; emphasis mine). This obedience leads one to believe that the holy family also would obey any divinely-inspired oral traditions (Mt. 23:3) that were part of the ancient Hebrew religion and would emerge later in the early Church (II Thess. 2:15).
They were forerunners to today’s orthodox Catholic in being obedient to Scripture and Tradition. In receiving all the particulars of the Old Covenant, they were receiving Christ and making a home for him.
All of the Old Covenant pointed to, culminated in and magnified Christ. One of the main points of the Transfiguration (Mt. 17: 1-13) is that Christ is superior to Moses and Elijah and that the Law, the Prophets and the Writings are all fulfilled in him.
He is the Alpha and the Omega and everything in-between. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit but Mary’s humility, also a gift of God, opened her womb to the Seed of God.
All the particulars of the Catholic faith—Scripture, Tradition, Magisterium, the sacramental life, devotion to Mary, spiritual disciplines, liturgical life, the Catechism, the Holy See and ecclesiastical hierarchy, etc.—point to, magnify and are fulfilled in Christ. When we receive the teaching of the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:15), we receive Christ and cultivate a “my heart is your home” relationship.
Holy Mary was also obedient to the spoken word of God or what some scholars would call the rhema word of God. Gabriel’s announcement to her that she will bear the Savior is the spoken word of God that is rooted in the written (Is. 7:14).
Sometimes we will have a friend give us a piece of advice where his or her voice becomes one with the voice of God. Their advice may not be found specifically in Scripture but its content agrees with biblical principles.
The Author is the Holy Spirit, and, in receiving a rhema word of God, we receive Christ. It may come as unsolicited advice you don’t want to hear: “A career change may be a good idea since your present job is wreaking havoc on your family and spiritual life and hurting your physical health,” or it may come in a more encouraging manner: “Remember, as a stay-at-home Mom, you have the most important job on the planet in training children who will be salt and light in the world.”
Mary’s appearance on the day of Pentecost is the last biblical reference we have of her. We know she had a mother-son relationship with Saint John and probably lived out her days until her Assumption in Ephesus in Turkey.
We can infer from her character and past behavior that she fully participated in the life of the New Testament Church and that would, of course, mean regularly and worthily (how could her Immaculate Heart do anything unworthily?) partaking of the Eucharist. In cultivating a “Mi casa es tu casa” relationship with Christ, we cannot do better than this: to literally receive him into the deepest recesses of our being.
When we eat three meals a day, we assimilate the food into our bodies and it becomes us. When we consume the Eucharist, we become him: we are what we eat.
As the apostle Paul wrote, we become conformed to his image (Rom. 8:29) and Christ is formed in us (Gal. 4:19), a not so subtle parallel to Mary’s experience. Though it is not possible in this season in my life to attend Mass every day, I must admit a certain envy for the daily communicant who receives what the soul really needs: multiple helpings of the Hidden Manna from Heaven.