Conversion through the grace of God, given through the hands of Mary

A reflection on the 6th Sunday of Easter


First reading: Acts 15:1-2,22-29


Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and presbyters about this question. Then the apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers. This is the letter delivered by them: “The apostles and the presbyters, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings. Since we have heard that some of our number [who went out] without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth: ‘It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.’”


Second Reading: Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23


He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendour of God. Its radiance was like that of a precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal. It had a massive, high wall, with twelve gates where twelve angels were stationed and on which names were inscribed, [the names] of the twelve tribes of the Israelites. There were three gates facing east, three north, three south, and three west. The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.


Gospel: John 14:23-29


Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”

 

The unity of the body of Christ threatened from within


The new Jerusalem is presented once again, but this time the city takes on a different form. The city is fortified by walls the colour of clear jasper, a symbol of security in a colour representing God. There is no mention of a temple in the city, because there, God lives among his people. Our attention is drawn to the 12 gates inscribed with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 courses of stones that represent the 12 Apostles. The body of Christ is not just open to the tribes of Israel, but also the far corners of the world that the 12 apostles were sent to. God loves all of his children.


The clarity that this vision offers is juxtaposed against the confusion and fear faced by the newly converted Gentiles. Teachings by a group of Jewish Christians that Gentiles must first convert to Judaism before they can be saved as Christians threatens to fracture the young Church and jeopardises the mission of the apostles, who convene a meeting to reach consensus on the teaching about circumcision and covenants.


St Peter and the apostles relying on the Holy Spirit


The Jewish Christians neither acted with the authority of the apostles, nor did they take their teachings from them. St Peter, addressing the congregation as their leader, settles the matter with the grace of the Holy Spirit. The apostles’ letter to the Gentile Christians states that "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage."


It thus becomes clear that to live in union with Christ requires us to keep his word: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” This must have been troubling or at least a heavy burden on the apostles who were charged not just with living their own Christian lives but also bringing the Gospel to the four corners of the earth.


Responding to Judas (not the Iscariot), who seemed concerned that Jesus would not be with them on this mission, Jesus assures the apostles that “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”


Montfort’s reliance on God for conversion


St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort lived in equally troubled times, and we do too. Yet amidst all our troubles and confusion in the world, Jesus offers us the assurance that if we keep his laws, he will be with us.


Wiel Logister SMM writes that in his day, Montfort did not occupy himself with political theory and social structures, preferring instead to act against certain groups. In his book, The Charity of God makes me sing, Logister writes that Montfort saw how “The world is characterized by the inability and the reluctance to trust in God. She ignores the ways that come forward in the history of salvation. Montfort is not saying that everything in the world is wrong. He enjoys many things, but he also has a lot of criticism in agreement with the Biblical prophets and Jesus... he is convinced that our way of living can change and improve, thanks to God, on condition we have a sharp eye on ourselves and the world around us.”


Mary as Treasurer of God’s graces


In Montfort’s eyes, we all rely on the graces of God for conversion. In The Secret of Mary (SM), Montfort writes, “The grace and help of God are absolutely necessary for us to practise all these (the means of holiness and salvation), but we are sure that grace will be given to all, though not in the same measure. I say "not in the same measure", because God does not give his graces in equal measure to everyone, although in his infinite goodness he always gives sufficient grace to each. A person who corresponds to great graces performs great works, and one who corresponds to lesser graces performs lesser works. The value and high standard of our actions corresponds to the value and perfection of the grace given by God and responded to by the faithful soul.” (SM 5)


Montfort generously reveals a secret to obtaining and keeping God’s graces: Mary. “It all comes to this, then. We must discover a simple means to obtain from God the grace needed to become holy. It is precisely this I wish to teach you. My contention is that you must first discover Mary if you would obtain this grace from God (SM 6). God chose her to be the treasurer, the administrator and the dispenser of all his graces, so that all his graces and gifts pass through her hands. Such is the power that she has received from him that she gives the graces of the eternal Father, the virtues of Jesus Christ, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to whom she wills, as and when she wills, and as much as she wills." (SM 10).”


Mary, as Mother of the Church and Queen of All Hearts plays a crucial role in the receiving and retaining of God’s graces. May God grant us, through her, the grace of continual conversion, especially as we approach Ordinary time this year.


Reflection Questions


· How have we sought the graces of God in sustaining our ongoing conversion?

· How have we allowed Mary to be dispenser and treasury of God’s graces in our lives?


Brian Ooi, Montfortian Gabrielite Associates


 

Do you want to know Jesus, living in Mary? Is God calling you to a life consecrated to His Son, through his most Amiable Daughter? Come and see, email us at montfortian.associates.sg@gmail.com or visit https://www.montfortcentre.org/montfortian-associates-movement

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