Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger.
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger.

May is the month of Mary. Mary is the Mother of God — of Jesus, the Church and our Mother. This intimate, family mystery of God’s presence in the heart of Mary flows from the total adherence of our Mother to the loving will of God. God lives in Mary and, therefore, in us, for Mary brings us into her intimate life in God.

The Son she bore responded to the Apostle Philip, who asked him, “Show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus replied, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me (Jn 14:8-10)?”

When we go to the heart of Mary and place our prayer on the altar of her heart, we know that those prayers go directly to the heart of Jesus who is the eternal love between God and us. It is the essence of our Faith not only to affirm that God lives in us but we in God. No other faith is rooted in such a primal proclamation: what Charles Williams called co-inherence.

Williams was a member of the spiritual and literary group of friends called “The Inklings.” This circle also included J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and the storied Ring Cycle, and C.S. Lewis. The founders of other religions also had disciples and followers who revered their words and actions, seeking to emulate them as the master, prophet or teacher. No other faith is so bold as to proclaim their founder as the very Lord of life who not only dwells in the hearts of believers but they in him.

Pope Francis is always talking about accompaniment, the importance of disciples of Jesus Christ to exercise their baptismal commission of going into the world and making disciples, and how this is done by befriending our neighbor. The biblical understanding of neighbor is quite broad. It does not only include one’s physical neighbors — those who live in the same neighborhood or household — but also strangers who come our way as well as those who live in the margins, who must be sought out intentionally and deliberately.

Who is my neighbor? Jesus addressed this question in many ways. In narratives, such as the parable of the Good Samaritan, and in direct statements, such as whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is mother and brother sister to me. Jesus’ own ministry — and that of the Church he founded — gradually came to extend to all the world. So the mission to accompany is not only to other believers, other Christians. It extends to everyone because God wants all to be included in his plan of saving every single person. God wants everyone in this family, this circle of divine love.

During this month of May, we have invited people on our diocesan Facebook page to share their special intentions. Many of those prayers are for family healing, for reconciliation among family members, and a return to the practice of the faith. I want you to know that not only am I including all those prayers in my intentions, but also that I am placing them in the heart of Mary, which lives in the heart of God.

As our own families heal, we may expect that peace will flow out into the world around us, to our friends, neighbors and communities. This is the very essence of the Gospel, its power to shed light and unite.

It is heartbreaking to witness members of our family, friends and neighbors — in all senses of that word — seeking happiness and fulfillment in what are only paths to misery and damnation. We know how the pandemic has contributed to depression, despair and mental illness. The remedy is not further isolation and distancing, but in gathering the straying sheep into our hearts and the heart of God.

Jesus even invites us to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us (Mt 5:44, cf. Eph 4:32-33). Sometimes we may feel those tensions even within our closest family circles. We know that Jesus himself met with disbelief and opposition among his relatives and in his hometown. Their resistance made it impossible for him to work the miracles of healing that he performed throughout his public ministry. We also know that Jesus told his disciples “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father” (Jn 14:12). What? Yes, it’s true. The power of the Holy Spirit, which flows from the heart of God, following the Ascension of Jesus into heaven and what we might call the “miracle” of Pentecost, the birth of the Church, enables us to extend the healing balm of God’s love to many whom even Jesus could not reach while he walked the face of the earth.

This is the mystery of our ecclesial (church) family, the mystical presence of God in the hearts of believers and in the communion that we share as members of the Body of Christ. Sometimes it is important to remind Satan that he lost! Christ’s victory over death, in the Cross and Resurrection, is a decisive blow to the grip of Evil on the human race. Our prayers for our family, friends, neighbors — and “enemies” — are not just our own, but also are gathered into the motherly Heart of Mary in whom God dwells and with whom we live in God.

With St. Paul we boldly proclaim, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God” (Rm 8: 31). Post your prayers on our diocesan Facebook page. Take them to the heart of Mary. Trust in the Lord Jesus whose healing power the great saints of our time — Thérèse Martin, Faustina Kowalska and Edith Stein — proclaimed as intimately present to us in the heart of Mary, the Mother of all peoples.