Commentary on the Gospel of

Eileen Burke-Sullivan - Creighton University's Division of Mission and Ministry

Today’s memorial of the Holy Name of Mary brings into focus an important but subtle liturgical practice in the Church that is realized in several “double feasts,” a major feast for Jesus and a parallel feast or memorial for Mary.  The Marian feast generally emerged a century of two after the original Christological Feast but is the fruit of the Church’s meditation on the role of Mary as a kind of sacrament of the whole Church.  I like to think of these as something similar to the icons of the early medieval period that were often “liturgical diptychs” – that is like two paintings of similar content facing each other and reflecting common or inter-relational insights, or a fuller sense of the mystery:  a feast of Jesus suggests something about his role vis-à-vis God the Father, salvation, human life, divine participation in the Trinity etc.  and a feast of Mary tells us how we humans, as Church, share in the mystery of Christ by the power of God’s Spirit. 

The readings for today’s liturgy call us to unity with one another as we share in this Life of the Risen Jesus.  Unity is NOT uniformity.  These terms are often confused in our various ideologies.  It is not some idealized form that we share, but rather a rich diversity of forms – which is one of the meanings of catholic. It is the substance (Spirit) of the Christ life that unites us. The substance of unity of the Church is a gift of God’s Spirit that we profess in the great Creedal statements. 

In the light of today’s liturgical prayer, we see that our unity is grounded in God’s holiness which is granted to those who DO the Will of the Father.  From today’s Gospel we hear Jesus tell us it is not the ones who call out “Lord, Lord,” who are united with Him,  but rather those of us who listen to Jesus’ word and act on it in the manner that He did. (As witnessed by Mary).  Paul, in the First Reading, tells us that we are to be united in our commitment to the God who feeds us and not be divided by idols who will consume us.  In both of these rich scriptural injunctions we see the importance of staying closely knit in mind, heart, and action with those committed to doing God’s will, perfectly defined by Mary’s “holiness” which flows from her fiat: “Let it be done to me according to your will”. 

Can I see myself in this mystery of unity with God’s Desire that Mary discloses by her life?  Can I understand that I am called to engage in divine activity, as one who is human in this very broken world?  Do I hear the call to specifically live on this September Saturday as a doer of Jesus’ word?  “Let it be done to me according to your word”?  That is the question, the invitation and the command for living in Christ, in this life and in the Kingdom fully realized for eternity.  It is the core question for Christians as we face the Feast of the Holy Cross in the coming days.


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