Fr. Reginald Martin, O.P.
Whenever I am asked which of the Rosary Center's novenas is my favorite, I answer without hesitation, "Our Lady of Lourdes." I have two reasons for this affection. The first is quite selfish; it is the coincidence of my feast-day's falling one day after we honor Mary as Our Lady of Lourdes. The second is a great deal more uplifting, and that is the magnificent sign of God's love Lourdes is for the world.
We commonly think of Lourdes as a place of healing, and so it is. But the waters at Lourdes are less important than the change of heart that was Mary's message to Bernadette. To be sure, Our Lady told Bernadette to wash, but her broader message to the world, repeated several times, was "Repent!"
In the gospel accounts, Jesus frequently encounters individuals suffering from illness or disease. These are symptoms of the deeper illness that besets creation as a result of sin. In the gospel, Jesus heals the individual and generally says, "Go, and sin no more." This is not a judgement that the person's illness is a direct result of a personal sin, but a recognition that accepting His message of repentance brings His Kingdom one step closer. We may envy the individuals able to make a pilgrimage to southern France and visit the site of Mary's apparition, but the physical cures that take place at Lourdes are signs of the deeper, spiritual healing God offers each of us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We can embrace the message of Lourdes at any time, at no cost, and without travelling very far from home.
I write this reflection as the days of Advent draw to their close, and we prepare for the birth of Our Savior. These days are truly Our Lady's season, and the liturgy daily recalls Mary's essential participation in the history of our salvation. Our First Parents did us an immense disservice back in the Garden. They said "Yes" when they meant "No," and so corrupted our language and our words. They closed their eyes, and the world was plunged in darkness. Each year, when our world languishes at its darkest, our Christmas celebrations remind us that Christ's Light has invaded the gloom of creation, so we may see our true nobility as God's creatures. And each year God's Word comes among us to remind us we have voices so we may imitate Mary and say "Yes" to God when He calls us.
Each of Mary's feast days is a celebration of that "Yes." A single word, but one that transformed her, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, into the "living Tabernacle of God made flesh." As we honor Mary as Our Lady of Lourdes, let us embrace her "Yes" and make it our own, so that, like Mary, we may share her role in the Incarnation, giving flesh and blood and a human face to God' s Word.
St. Thomas Aquinas asked whether the Incarnation was necessary, whether God needed to become flesh in order to save us. He replied that if by "necessary" we mean was the Incarnation the only way God could have saved us, the answer is no; God could have saved us in any number of ways. But if, he says, by "necessary" we mean was the Incarnation the most convenient, the most elegant, or the most fitting way to save us, or did the Incarnation give us the best example, then the answer is yes - the Incarnation was absolutely necessary.
What could more aptly increase our faith than to have God's son become a partner in our human nature? And what could be a better example, when we had forgotten what it meant to be God's children, than to have God's Son dwell among us - to go through every moment of our lives, first to last. Not so we wouldn't have to, but to show us how it's done, to get it right, and to show us what it means to be truly human. "Flesh," St. Augustine says, "which could be seen, was not to be followed; but God was to be followed who could not be seen. And therefore was God made flesh, that he who might be seen and followed by flesh might be shown to it."
Essential in all this, of course, is Mary and her saying "Yes." She was conceived without sin to be a worthy mother of the sinless Word. At Lourdes she calls us to repentance that we may be worthy disciples of that same Word. May Our Lady of Lourdes pray for us!
2 Novenas of Masses in honor of
The Rosary Center
PO Box 3617
Portland, OR 97208 USA