The Bride of Hope
Aug 28, 2018
Earlier this week, I had the unfortunate experience of scrolling through Face Book after news coming out of Pennsylvania broke. What made the posts even more disturbing is that they were from friends. One in particular demanded that if you were a part of the Catholic Church, you had an obligation to leave it.
Then he listed a litany of points trying to disprove the credibility of the Church. And I was reading them, I wondered whether or not I should even try to respond, that is until I got to his point about the insignificance of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That point prompted me to write a response and in light of today’s readings, inspired me to preach on what is the authentic nature of the Catholic Church.
Wives be submissive to your husbands. Once that statement is heard, there is a tendency to refuse to listen to whatever else might come next. But as Saint Paul concludes the passage…For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh…this is a great mystery but I speak in reference to Christ and His Bride the Church. Marriage then is the key to understanding and appreciating the nature and spirit of the Church.
Spoken of in feminine terms, She is identified as the Bride of Jesus Christ. There is no more loving, more self-sacrificing Bridegroom than Jesus Christ…He is the perfect man who has to offer only the perfect love. As Saint Paul reminds men who have the greater submission of loving responsibility when it comes to marriage: Husbands love your wives even as Christ loves the Church and handed Himself over to her to sanctify her…that He might present to Himself the Church in splendor. And where does Christ demonstrate the absolute greatness and intensity…passion of His love the most…than on the Cross at Calvary.
The origin of the word submission is of a military use, meaning to arrange troops in a military fashion under the command of a leader…for the common purpose and goal of victory.
The goal of the Incarnation was to win the world back from Satan and return it redeemed to the Father in and through Christ. Therefore, there was never a more submissive person than the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whose submission Saint Paul describes in stunning fashion:
Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,*
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.*
7Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave;*
8he humbled himself,f
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.*
Jesus Christ insisted Himself…the Son of Man has come NOT to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. And Christ dramatically demonstrated this when for 30 years He lived under the roof of Mary and Joseph and despite being their God and Creator He submitted Himself to their authority.
Not my will your will be done…Christ consummated His marriage on the marriage bed of the Cross. Jesus did this for the absolute greatest good…our salvation…and did so within the context of military service since a war had to be fought with Satan and the powers of Hell who through our sinfulness had held us as POWs but Christ ransomed us at the cost of His own life.
That we are at war is a reality that began before we were ever created. As the Book of Revelation reports…War broke out in Heaven… Michael* and his angels battled against the dragon.
The dragon and its angels fought back, 8but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9The huge dragon, the ancient serpent,* who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.
Not being able to defeat God…Satan and his army instead focused the full force of their hatred for God against His most precious creation…us. The battle was taken to earth…to a married couple. Since the arrival of evil in this world, evil’s focus has been to destroy marriage and family.
And so in response to the original sin tragedy, God would empower us to fight back…specifically the woman…saying to Satan in that 3rd chapter of Genesis…I will put enmity or hatred between you and the woman between her children and yours…she will crush your head while you wait to strike at her heel.
Now this can’t be Eve since she was in a state of sin...as there is only one woman in Eden in must be a prophecy of another woman to come entrusted with serious power...which must be a prophecy of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, being sinless and thus free from any influence of evil and being the Fullness of Grace, she can crush Satan’s head.
What is also mentioned are her children who will assist in this head crushing process who are identified in Rev 12 as those who bear witness to Christ...so if war can break out in Heaven no shock it erupts within the Church where the Devil focuses the full force of his hatred and contempt...that is because as Scripture states the Church is Bride and Mother and the image and likeness from which the Church is formed from IS Mary who is a woman...the woman!
Bride of the Holy Spirit and Mother of God...so knowing that his defeat is at the hands AND feet of Mary, in his rage Satan seeks to destroy the Church. But as Jesus said to Peter He continues to say to us…the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church…it will try as it once tried in Heaven and failed.
Putting that feminine face to the Church…it is Mary’s. She gives birth to the Son of God in the flesh. At any baptismal font…the Church gives birth to sons and daughters of God the Father…as they are drawn forth from the watery womb of that font. But it is not enough to just give birth to a child that child must be fed…and so he and she are nourished with the greatest most energizing and empowering food…the Bread of Life:
Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood will live forever…talk about having the words of eternal life…and not just the words but He is Eternal Life in food form for our consumption. When Jesus died on the Cross and the Roman Soldier pierced His heart, it is reported that blood and water came flowing out…water which indicates baptism…blood…the Eucharist…therefore the sacramental life of the Church as Bride and Mother comes forth from the Body of the Man Jesus Christ as once Eve…the first woman and bride was drawn forth from the side of Adam.
We must then also refer to the Church as Scripture does as the Body of Christ…but how can the Church be both Bride/Mother and Body of Christ. When a man and woman marry…the two shall become one flesh…one body…one family. Therefore, what effects one spouse effects the other since they are so intimately connected…heart, mind, soul and body…there is no relationship that demands greater love, endurance, commitment, patience and work than marriage.
It stands to reason that as Christ endured His Passion and took upon His Body the sins of the world...the Church must also endure her Passion...for in Marriage the two become one flesh sharing one experience of love for better and worse, richer and poorer, in sickness and in health...Christ is the Bridegroom who is one with His Bride the Church...Holy Communion and Holy Matrimony are two sides of the same precious and sacred coin of unity.
The body is not bad…behavior determines its condition. Excessive smoking for example…bad choice…excessive drinking…then driving…then causing an accident…what happens…it inflicts almost irreparable harm on others. Our collective sin horribly disfigured and damaged the body of Christ…killed Him in fact…which is similar in scope to what is happening with the Church today.
Christ did not inflict this damage upon Himself…the damage came from within the Church yes like a cancerous infiltration…like Satan…once God’s brightest and best Archangel causing war to erupt in of all places Heaven and now the Church.
And like the murmuring we hear from the Gospel, there is the deafening murmur for those who want the Church finished. As a result many left Him and returned to their former ways of life. And they left Him why…because of His teaching on the Holy Eucharist which is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. When we receive Holy Communion…like spouses who receive each other in Holy Matrimony by saying I do and become one flesh…when we say our I do or Amen at Holy Communion we become one flesh with Jesus Christ.
But if we are to remain united with Christ in His glorious resurrection…we must remain united with Him in the humility and subordination of His Passion. When Christ endured His agony in Gethsemane His disciples slept then fled...no one was there at the foot of His Cross but John and who is he standing beside...”woman behold your son...son behold your mother” and from that moment the Gospels report he took Mary where?
Into his home...his heart...his mission...his Priesthood...those who leave the Church because of the scandal of evil will be like those who fled from Christ after His arrest and death or murmuring walked away from His instruction on the Eucharist.
We must take our position with John beside Mary at the Cross/Crucifixion of the Church and as Christ’s Body enjoys the Glory of Resurrection and everlasting joy so shall His Body the Church! As we hear Joshua say today: as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Was it not Joshua after an extended but eventually successful campaign of warfare led the Israelites at last into the promised land? This is no time for desertion…such choices lose battles and cost lives.
We have She who crushes the Head of the Serpent…Devotion to Mary and the Holy Eucharist…the Body which comes forth from so Immaculate and Holy a womb…this is the Church…and taking our temporary position at the Foot of the Cross we will enjoy our permanent position of victory at the empty tomb.
This is Communion, this is Family, this is Faith, this is the war we enlisted in to fight at baptism…this is the Church as Bride, Mother one with Christ one with us…and not until death do us part…but as Scripture and Human History conclude with this guaranteed prediction of final and everlasting victory:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away.* 2I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,* coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.b 3I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.c He will dwell with them and they will be his people* and God himself will always be with them [as their God].* 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain.”d
5The one who sat on the throne* said, “Behold, I make all things new.