The Month of the Immaculate Heart of Mary concludes beautifully this year with the intense themes of the Sacred Liturgy for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The Collect of the Mass confesses before Almighty God the weakness of man and his need for God’s grace: “…because the frailty of man without You cannot but fall, keep us ever by Your help from all harmful things, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation.” The drama of our human freedom is here indicated, as the Epistle and the Gospel speak to us of the two kingdoms – of God and of Satan – between which we must choose on our way to salvation.
In the Epistle, St. Paul speaks to us frankly about the spiritual warfare into which we must enter in order to be saved. “The flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, for these are contrary to one another,” he tells us. And Jesus, in our Gospel, makes this warfare even more explicit, teaching us that we cannot serve both God and Mammon, which is the pleasure and happiness and success of this world.
These themes evoke the great meditation of the Two Standards in the “Spiritual Exercises” of St. Ignatius of Loyola. In this meditation, the retreatant is invited to imagine two huge armies set in battle formation, the Army of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and the evil army of the devil and his angels. The meditation then leads to a consideration of these kingdoms and their promises and concludes with a firm and joyful choice to serve Jesus Christ and to seek only His Kingdom.
Our Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Heart is our refuge and consolation to help us in this spiritual warfare. We are too weak to choose well ourselves. The lusts of the flesh are too strong, the desires for worldly happiness are too enticing. Satan has clothed himself in sheep’s clothing and we are fooled often. We cannot trust ourselves. We must fly with great haste and confidence to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to her who is “terrible as an army set in battle array!” Each one of us, if we wish to be wise, must pray the Holy Rosary daily and make our total consecration to Jesus through Mary according to the form of St. Louis de Montfort, found in his masterpiece, “True Devotion to Mary.”
Our Blessed Lady, in her perfect humility and entire trust in God’s grace, always chooses the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. She always lives in the spirit and she forms her children to seek only the spiritual pleasures of Heaven. By consecrating ourselves as her slaves, by giving her everything, we keep ourselves safe for eternal life. We let her victory over the ancient serpent be realized in the poverty of our own souls. Blessed Mary is the solution to the great spiritual warfare in which we live. She teaches us to choose always the Standard of Jesus Christ. Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of Mary, pray for us to live only for the joys of Heaven at every moment!
Fr. Joseph Previtali