||This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.
Last weekend the anticipation of Easter joy certainly mingled with, and almost seemed to overcome, the more somber spirit of Lenten penance as we celebrated both the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Blessed Mother and Laetare Sunday, which captures in advance the joy of Easter and reminds us indeed of the destiny of Lent.
The Annunciation celebrates Jesus taking flesh in the womb of His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the moment of His conception, free from Original Sin.
Mary, as she carried Jesus about in her physical body, became the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle of God the Most High.
While her understanding was clearly limited, she became, in fact, the mother of God-made-flesh in her womb.
Silent entrance in world
Mary lived out her expectant motherhood in silence, a theme upon which we have previously reflected in accord with the book of Cardinal Sarah, The Power of Silence, which was recently released in English.
Thus, Mary herself, in her silence about her new motherly status becomes the veil who conceals the mystery of Christ who came into our world. The silence is indicated by St. John, who says in his gospel, He came unto his own, but His own people did not recognize Who He was.
His was a silent entrance into the world, concealed beneath the veil of Mary, His mother, and indeed that veil was figuratively pierced when He was born on Christmas Day, nine months after the Annunciation.
Gift of great joy
Mary's silence, for her, was certainly perplexing and challenging, and yet it was a gift of great joy.
Though she did not understand the mystery in its fullness, she had an intuition given her by the announcing angel, that she would be the Mother of God, that her life would be forever different, and that her vocation was to fulfill a unique and indispensable role in the salvation of the world.
What could be a greater source of that joy? The joy of the birth of Christ and His Annunciation is brought to fulfillment in the joy of Easter when Jesus, once again, comes to life wrapped in swaddling clothes, in the shroud of burial.
Mary's presence at the foot of the Cross and when her Divine Son appeared to her is no less essential than her presence at the stable in Bethlehem bringing forth the savior of the world.
The confluence of the joy of Christmas and the joy of Easter are thus brought together in the celebration of the Annunciation of Our Lady and of Laetare Sunday.
Every time of suffering or penance, necessary elements in every Christian life, always give way to Christmas and Resurrection joy.
Allowing that joy to shine forth in our hearts and on our countenances, especially during times of suffering, is the most wonderful witness to the whole truth of Christ that any person can give.
So when suffering, sadness, or disappointment come our way, let us not give into the self-centered temptation to say, "Why me?" Let us realize that this is our share in the mystery, which the silence of Mary veiled for nine months, and then unveiled so that salvation could happen, really and visibly in human history. What a wonderful mystery is the plan of our God!
Thank you for reading this. God bless each one of you.
Praised be Jesus Christ!