In 1942 Pope Pius XII consecrated a world at war to the Heart of Mary and two years later inserted into the church calendar a memorial in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It now follows the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. St. John Eudes, who first promoted this devotion in the seventeenth century, understood it as urging Christians to imitate her responsiveness to the Word of God, that is, not only to hear a word but also to carry it out. Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was furthered by the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima in 1917. There, three children between the ages of ten and thirteen saw a vision of Our Lady who in the course of her appearances gave them a threefold message to spread: first was an emphasis on penance, second on the recitation of the rosary, and third on devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The first reading about the death of Zechariah at the hands of King Joash and his court may seem out of place as we keep this special memorial in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. At the same time, we can see a commonality in the preaching of Zechariah and the life of Mary. Both of them listened to the Word of God and obeyed it even though it cost Zechariah his life and led to some great sorrow in the life of Mary. Listening to the Word of God and carrying it into our lives will come at some cost.
The Gospel reading chosen for this memorial highlights the fact that God’s Word was also important for Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Mary. Though his love for his mother and his foster father is never in doubt, it is also clear that his love for God and obedience to God’s Word is a priority in his life.
This memorial is an extension of the celebration we held yesterday, for the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary were both focused on hearing and obeying the Word of God.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator