Many of you are familiar with the great American illustrator of the 20th century, Norman Rockwell. He painted the covers for the Saturday Evening Post from 1916-1963, commenting with a brush on all facets of American life.
Some of the most interesting paintings center on the challenges of marriage and family life.
In the painting titled, “The Breakfast Table,” there is a married couple sitting together at this really small round table, and the husband has his face glued to the newspaper, with the back of it practically touching his wife’s face, as the wife sighs looking toward the viewer, sipping her cup of tea.
Another titled, “Easter Morning,” shows a mother, her two daughters, and her son dressed to a tea walking out the door to attend the Easter service at church. Meanwhile the father is hunkering down in his armchair still dressed in pajamas and his robe, reading the newspaper unshaven, with a cigarette in his mouth, but with a really guilty look on his face.
But there’s one painting that is a bit nobler in content that I think is most profound. The painting is titled. “The Marriage License,” and features a beautiful, young, innocent couple applying for their marriage license, almost glowing in white, very optimistic about their future together as the clerk looks off in the distance as if he’s seen this naïve enthusiasm before, but resists telling the couple about all of the hardships of marriage.
The question that is becoming more and more prevalent today's is whether or not it still possible to have a happy, holy, and healthy marriage?
Pope Francis, throughout his pontificate has referenced this fear of commitment that is prevalent in our youth.
And so it takes great courage to say, “I do,” and really mean it. It takes great courage to say “yes” to a religious vocation.
Today, with the Solemnity of the Annunciation, we celebrate not only Mary’s “I do” to her betrothed, Joseph. But also her “I do” to the Holy Spirit, which brings Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Redeemer, into the world.
We read in today’s Gospel from Luke, Mary’s consent to conceiving Jesus in her womb. It is good for us to analyze the significance of that consent:
Prior to Mary’s consent, the Archangel Gabriel addresses Mary as “FULL OF GRACE.” The title itself references the truth that Mary was conceived without original sin. For “Full of Grace” is a salutation given to Mary prior to her being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. It’s as if saying she is 100% filled with grace, leaving no room for any spot of sin. She has no disordered effects from original sin.
Secondly, we study the consent itself. Mary consents to the incarnation of Jesus Christ in her womb not only on behalf of herself, but also on behalf of her betrothed spouse, Joseph; and she does so with profound humility and obedience to God, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”
Lastly, the decision impacts the entire future vocation of the Holy Family. Their concentration becomes completely dedicated on preparing their son for the greatest ministry of all time and eternity, destroying sin and death. And the Holy Family is ready and willing to help us in our vocations.
When we encounter struggles in our marriage and family life, we need to turn to the Holy Family as a model.
St. Francis de Sales says the following about the Holy Family:
“We may say that the Holy Family was a Trinity on earth, which in a certain way represented the Heavenly Trinity itself.”
Each member of this “Earthly Trinity” was willing to subject themselves to the authority of the other. Joseph subjects himself to Mary with her consent at the incarnation. Mary subjects herself to Joseph as He protects her in fleeing to Egypt. Jesus, subjects Himself to His parents’ authority after the finding in the Temple.
How well do we cooperate with each other in our families? Do we trust each other? How can we grow in love of God and love of each other? Do we say “yes” each day in willingness to work out our problems, and in willingness to forgive each other?
Imagine if Mary told Jesus, “Please don’t suffer and die on the cross, I cannot bear this pain, or if Elizabeth told John the Baptist, “It would be so embarrassing to our family for you to go out into the wilderness and preach in utter poverty.”
Let Mary’s, “yes” today give us courage to carry our crosses. St. Andre Bessette says, “Do not seek to have your trials lifted from you, instead, seek the grace to endure them well.”
Let us ask for the grace this Lent to carry our crosses. Not for our own future glory, but for the infinite glory of God.
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