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«Father Peter John Cameron, O.P. The Knights of Columbus presents The Veritas Series “Proclaiming the Faith in the Third Millennium” The Gifts of ...»

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At the same time, we see in Mary how “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). For in reverencing and believing the excellence of God revealed in the archangel Gabriel, the Blessed Mother manifests the right judgment she has about divine things. Her grace as Seat of Wisdom has begun to function in the reverent fear in which she receives God’s messenger and accepts his message of Wisdom Incarnate.

Through this transforming experience of sanctified fear, Mary is called to look upon God in a new way. The angel announces that God is now her Spouse. Saint Louis de Montfort writes: “The Holy Spirit became fruitful through Mary whom he espoused. To his faithful spouse, Mary, the Holy Spirit has communicated his ineffable gifts, and he has chosen her to dispense all that he possesses. The Holy Spirit says to Mary: ‘You are still My Spouse, unswervingly faithful, pure and fruitful.’” And what is Mary’s response to all this? The profound humility that is Fear’s effect. “Mary said, ‘I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say’” (Luke 1:38). She gives herself to God as a servant...but not in a servile manner. Her concern is only to love God more, to fulfill his will, to avoid whatever might offend him, and to grow closer to him in love and devotion. In her utter poverty and humility, the Blessed Mother seeks nothing for herself. “Full of grace,” Mary’s Immaculate Heart is so absolutely disinclined to sin that Fear of the Lord prompts her to shun all evil as she awaits the birth of the Savior in perfect tranquillity. And as we remain united to the Blessed Mother in her Fear of the Lord, her confidence and tranquillity become our own. As Mary’s life and song proclaim: “God’s mercy is from age to age on those who fear him” (Luke 1:50).

The Visitation of Mary and the Gift of Piety Immediately after Gabriel left her presence, “Mary set out, proceeding in haste into the hill country to a town of Judah, where she entered Zechariah’s house, and greeted her kinswoman Elizabeth” (Luke

- 32 40). In so doing, Mary manifests the Spirit’s Gift of Piety that prepares God’s people to be promptly responsive in a special way to the divine inspirations he sends. Mary’s love of her cherished relationship with God moves her immediately to offer him extraordinary homage and worship. And it should move us as well.

The Visitation is an act that manifests the Gift of Piety. Piety concerns fulfilling our duty and conscientious service towards God, towards our country, and towards those related to us by blood or by any common allegiance. The Visitation gives expression to the Blessed Mother’s love for God, for the child in her womb, for her relatives Elizabeth and Zechariah, for the child in Elizabeth’s womb, and for the common allegiance they all share thanks to the divine vocations with which they have been entrusted.

Above all else, the gift of piety is the offering of special service and honor to God as Father. Elizabeth proclaims the unique honor and service Mary offers to God: “Blessed are YOU who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45). And Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55) praises the greatness of God’s fatherly care, especially as he brings to fulfillment all that “he promised our fathers, promised Abraham and his descendants forever” (Luke 1:55). Mary’s piety proclaims how God as a Father fulfills his promises to the Old Testament fathers. Whenever we join in proclaiming Mary’s Magnificat, we more deeply esteem our own relationship with God in the most profound words of worship and honor.

Piety is also concerned with coming to the aid of those in need. Saint Augustine wrote that we pay homage to those whom we cherish by doing honor either to their memory or their company. Mary exercises the chief act of piety by bringing her Son to Elizabeth—and to us—out of reverence for God. But at the same time, the Blessed Mother’s offering to Elizabeth is also an offering to God. Elizabeth is vividly aware of this: “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” This pious exclamation of Elizabeth reveals another dimension of the gift: Piety moves us to honor the indebtedness we bear to others because of their superiority in our life as well as because of the different benefits they contribute to our life.

- 33 Elizabeth’s piety toward Mary—and therefore to God the Father— expresses her indebtedness to Mary by honoring the Blessed Mother as our God-given source of new life, holiness, and joy. We are called to take up Elizabeth’s pious regard for Mary as a way of cultivating the gift of piety in our own souls. Just as Mary and Elizabeth show honor to each other, so too do the saints demonstrate this kind of piety in heaven to each other as well as to us on earth by the compassion they show to us in our moments of misery.

Through the Gift of Piety, the Holy Spirit inspires us to have a profoundly childlike attitude towards God. Mary and Elizabeth, at this moment, are childlike in a unique way, for they are actually with child.

The gift of piety calls us to be childlike as well. And as we respond to that gift by honoring God as Father, we can be assured in our littleness with Mary that “God will raise the lowly to high places” (Luke 1:52).

The Presentation in the Temple and the Gift of Knowledge Joseph and Mary present the infant Jesus in the temple so as to fulfill the law of Moses by offering sacrifice “in accord with the dictate of the law of the Lord” (Luke 2:23). They manifest in their offering the Spirit’s gift of knowledge. For the gift of knowledge enables us to know what we ought to believe and do regarding God by giving us discernment about what belongs to the matter of faith. The gift of knowledge provides sure and correct judgment about the things of faith. And so, in obedience of faith, Mary and Joseph present Jesus to God in the temple.

There they encounter the “pious and just” man Simeon (Luke 2:25).

The Holy Spirit has graced him with a very special knowledge: “that he would not experience death until he had seen the Anointed of the Lord” (Luke 2:26). But the trouble is this: How would Simeon know the Messiah when he appeared? It is the Spirit’s Gift of Knowledge that blesses Simeon with sure and correct judgment about the identity of Jesus as he sees the Lord with Mary and Joseph. The Gift of Knowledge moves Simeon to the conviction that the baby Mary gives him to hold in his arms is the very

- 34 object of his faith. Mary gives us Jesus as well so that we too can hold him close, so that he might renew and revive our flagging faith.

Simeon recognizes God Incarnate in the human flesh of the Jesus through the supernatural assistance of the Gift of Knowledge. The impulse

of that Gift stirs Simeon in turn to express his certitude and conviction:

“Now, Master, you have fulfilled your word. For my eyes have witnessed your saving deed” (Luke 2:29–30). The Gift of Knowledge gives us a graced way of discerning. It enables us to look upon created things and to assess with certainty, how they bolster our belief and feed our life of faith.

Because of the Gift of Knowledge, we regard and esteem the presence and action of God in creation in a new way: with the “revealing light to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:31).

This experience also blesses Mary with new knowledge. Simeon assures her: “You yourself shall be pieced with a sword so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare” (Luke 2:35). The Blessed Mother’s participation in the redemptive mission of her Son will cause many to empty their lives of old thoughts and ideas so as to make room for the Spirit’s gift of knowledge, a knowledge of the Truth that transforms us by uniting us to the very mind and heart of God. God gives Mary to us as a Mother with whom we can lay bare our hearts and unburden our souls. As we confide ourselves to Mary’s maternal care, she invites us to the Truth that liberates us, that brings full meaning and value to our life, that fills our life with Peace. By our union with Mary, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit’s Gift of Knowledge comes to fruition within us.

Anna the Prophetess also confirms the sure and correct judgment the gift of knowledge renders regarding the infant Jesus as she talks about the child “to all who looked forward to deliverance” (see Luke 2:36–38). We are part of her audience; the Spirit’s Gift of Knowledge gives us ears to hear, to listen, to believe, to respond in faith.

We are told that the child Jesus “grew in size and strength, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). Through the Gift of Knowledge, we can be certain that we will grow likewise. And

- 35 the Blessed Mother will remain as instrumental in our own process of growth as she was in the life of her Son Jesus.

The Finding in the Temple and the Gift of Fortitude What kind of terror must have seized the hearts of Mary and Joseph when they discovered their child missing from the traveling party on their journey home from the Passover feast in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41–45)? How did they console and fortify themselves as they urgently retraced their steps back to the place where they had last seen their twelve year old son?

They must have been encouraged with the Holy Spirit’s Gift of Fortitude.

The Gift of Fortitude or courage is a kind of firmness of mind needed for doing good and enduring evil. This Gift surpasses the natural moral virtue of courage by its power to make us confident of escaping each and every danger, even those that make steadfastness outstandingly difficult.

That was the kind of situation Mary and Joseph faced. The Gift of Fortitude empowered them to repulse the frightful imaginings and scenarios that must have tormented their minds as they searched sorrowfully for Jesus (cf. Luke 2:48).

The chief act of the Gift of Fortitude is to enable us to stand our ground amidst dangers. In this way, the Gift prevented Mary and Joseph from jumping to false conclusions about why their child was missing. For through this Gift, the Holy Spirit moves the human mind in a way that surpasses what is natural and peculiar to it so as to reach the end of a good work begun. Simeon a few years earlier had revealed to Joseph and Mary the divine work that had begun in Jesus: “This child is destined to be the downfall and rise of many” (Luke 2:34). Therefore, the Holy Spirit fortified them through his special Gift to remain steadfast in their confidence despite the many excruciating anxieties and nightmares that must have plagued them.

Mary and Joseph sought their lost son like a parched man seeking water. Saint Augustine says that courage befits those who thirst because they work hard to achieve the joy that springs from the good thing they seek. The fruits of the Gift of Fortitude are eminent in Mary and Joseph.

- 36 They manifest a holy patience that enables them to endure the evil of being separated from their son. And they demonstrate long-suffering: that forbearance to wait in perseverance and faith all the while performing the good works necessary to restore their tranquillity and peace.

In God’s providence, it is necessary for Mary to suffer this grueling experience. For it prepares the Blessed Mother for that other excruciating experience of the cross. It is on Calvary that Mary’s sanctified courage is truly displayed. Yet, this experience of losing her Son in its own way is a foreshadowing and prefigurement of the Passion and death of Jesus. “On the third day” Joseph and Mary find Jesus in the temple. And on the third day the Risen Jesus appears to his believers. Mary’s finding of the child Jesus is like a mini-Resurrection in advance. But before the real thing, Mary—and we—must be fortified with the Spirit’s Gift of Fortitude so that we have the perseverance to stand firm and face death in our life, in whatever form it may come.

Just as courage led the Blessed Virgin Mary to Jesus, so too will our union with Mary in the Spirit’s gift of courage lead us to eternal life with Jesus.

The Wedding Feast at Cana and the Gift of Counsel In the Gospel of John, the first miracle of Jesus’ ministry is the changing of water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana (cf. John 2:1–12).

This divine sign inaugurates and signals the impact of God’s transforming presence and power in our midst. What happens to that water is meant to happen to us—and even more! Therefore, it is of paramount importance for us to take note of how the Lord changes water into wine.

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