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Be like Mary: Walk in the way of discipleship

Archbishop Wenski's homily on 10th anniversary of his installation in Miami

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily June 1, 2020, during a Mass at St. Martha Church, Miami Shores, with the Pastoral Center staff. The Mass marked the 10th anniversary of his installation as archbishop of Miami.

In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, God calls out to Adam and Eve: Where are you? They had just eaten of the forbidden fruit and hid from God because they were naked and afraid. So, I guess you could say that the Book of Genesis was the pilot for that reality TV show: Naked and Afraid.

Of course, the choice of this reading from Genesis was quite deliberate: Today the Universal Church celebrates a new feast day. Pope Francis, a couple of years ago, decided that the Monday after Pentecost be celebrated as the Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church.

Eve was the mother of our human race – she and Adam lost paradise because of their turning away from God. In a sense, their sin was they wanted to be god but without God. Their disobedience to the will of God is represented by their eating of the forbidden fruit after succumbing to the seduction of the “serpent.”

If Eve was the mother of the fallen human race, Mary is the mother of the redeemed human race, the Mother of the Church, the community of the redeemed baptized in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and enlivened by the gift of his Holy Spirit. If by eating from the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve lost paradise because of their disobedience, Mary’s Son offers us paradise from the tree of his cross. If the fruit of the forbidden tree brought death, then the fruit of the Cross – the Body and Blood of Christ offered for us in sacrifice – brings us life.

And, in today’s Gospel, at the foot of the cross stands Mary, just as, after Jesus’ Ascension, she stands with the apostles as they prayed in the Upper Room, the Cenacle, awaiting the gift of the Spirit. In her Assumption, she stands for us – assuring us that God does keep his promises. And, as Mother of the Church, she stands with us.

And so, we fittingly honor her as the new Eve, Mother – and model – of the Church. And we confidently seek her intercession. May she pray for us – and protect us, as we seek to get on the other side of this double crisis or rather this triple crisis – for as we saw this past week, we face today not only a health and economic crisis but also a social crisis. May she pray for us – and protect us as we officially enter into the 2020 hurricane season. May she whom we invoke in this archdiocese as the Immaculate Conception, la Purísima and la Virgen de la Caridad, guide and protect this local Church as we respond to the challenges of being “missionary disciples” in a new normal that’s really very far from normal. And may Mary’s prayers help this “unworthy servant” in my ministry as your archbishop which began officially ten years ago today.

Mary’s “fiat” – given at the Annunciation – defined her self-sacrificial cooperation with God’s plan of salvation. From the cross, Jesus entrusted her to us – and us to her: She is the spiritual mother of all who would be disciples to Christ, she is the Mother of the Church.

During the three years in which Jesus walked with his apostles forming them for their future ministry, he asked them to make a radical break with the values which this fallen world hold dear: self-exaltation, carnal indulgence, earthly wealth. And, as each of us face these fundamental temptations, isn’t Mary the model for all of us?

What the Second Vatican Council called the Universal Vocation of all the faithful to holiness is simply to be like Mary, to say “yes” to God, to walk in the way of discipleship. And this Marian role, that is common to all the faithful, precedes and supersedes any other role in the Church.

Apostleship presumes discipleship: that is to say, before we can be credible apostles, we need to be committed disciples. The “institutional Church,” or what we could call the Petrine or apostolic Church, depends on the Marian Church.

All of you who are here today are engaged in one way of another with the work of the archdiocese. Your roles, whether given through ordination to the priesthood or deaconate, or through religious consecration, or simply through the living out of your baptism, are a tremendous service and support for me as I exercise my Apostolic ministry entrusted to me by the successor of Peter. I couldn’t do it without you.

In today’s second reading, St. Paul gives some sage advice to Timothy and to those who share in the “Petrine side” of the Church, a “noble task” as he calls it. He would also tell Titus, another one of his protégés: “Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity and sound speech that cannot be censured, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.” (Titus 2: 7-8).

With such a job description, I know that you appreciate how much I need Mary’s prayers – and yours. Without her powerful intercession, we all would just be “Naked and Afraid.”

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