2cornucopias

Mosaic of Jesus

In 13 Today's Church on 2014/07/27 at 12:00 AM

 

  • We are very blessed here at St. Ann’s to have some very lovely mosaics adorning our altar, baptismal font, and apse wall. But if you love mosaic art, one city in the world you must visit is Ravenna, which lies in northeastern Italy along the Adriatic coast.
  • Within Ravenna, which is a virtual treasure trove of ancient mosaics, perhaps the most outstanding and best-preserved mosaics are to be found in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.
  • Built by the daughter of Emperor Theodosius in the first half of the 5th century, this small brick building is home to some of the best Byzantine mosaics in the world.
  • Incidentally, all six of our mosaics – which were created by a mosaicist from Ravenna – were inspired in their color and design by the mosaics in this mausoleum!
  • Within the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, perhaps the most famous mosaic is of the Good Shepherd, which is above the north entrance of the building.
  • In this mosaic a beardless Jesus is resting on a rock surrounded by six sheep, all gazing at Him. Jesus appears muscular, youthful, and full of vigor. In His left hand is a staff topped with a golden cross, while His right hand is caressing one of the sheep.
  • What I love most about this mosaic is that it shows our Lord to be strong and protective yet so tender and gentle as well – just as a good shepherd should be.
  • Our readings today speak to us about shepherds, and in particular we see Jesus in the Gospel story today tending to the people who appear like sheep without a shepherd.
  • This Gospel story shows us the sacrificial love and solicitude our Lord has for His flock, and how He pastors and cares for His sheep out of His great love for them.
  • But in our first reading from the prophet Jeremiah those shepherds who mislead and scatter the Lord’s flock are given a stern warning, while the Lord promises the faithful that they will be given good shepherds to lead them.
  • What we can glean from our readings is that, while all of us are ultimately responsible for our own salvation, our Lord recognizes that we often need help along the way. We all need guidance and direction.
  • Broadly speaking, that’s why we have the priesthood. Priests – particularly pastors – act as shepherds for souls, pointing out the way to salvation for the flock entrusted to them. This we do through preaching, teaching, and offering the sacraments.
  • In this role as shepherd, we priests look to Jesus Christ as our supreme model for all that a shepherd should be. But even more than that, through the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we act in persona Christi capitis.
  • This means that when we act in accord with the intention of the Church in our official leadership capacity, it is Christ Himself who acts through us.
  • The Catechism teaches us that in an ordained minister’s service to the Church, “it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, [and] Shepherd of his flock” (#1548).
  • By virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, a priest is truly made like Christ and is given the authority to act in the power and person of Christ Himself. Thus through the person of the priest, Christ is made present within a community of believers (CCC #1548-9).
  • So when a priest baptizes, it is Christ who baptizes. When a priest confects the Eucharist, it is Christ who confects. When a priest forgives a sin, it is Christ who forgives. When a priest preaches in accord with the Church, it is Christ who preaches.
  • But even though it is truly Jesus working through the person of His priests as they seek to shepherd the people of God, Jesus and His ordained ministers are not the only ones who help to guide us along the path to salvation.
  • For example, each of us has a guardian angel, and each us has various patron saints who attend to us as well. From their place in Heaven the angels and saints inspire us and intercede for us – helping us to follow God’s will and to grow in holiness.
  • Preeminent amongst the angels and saints, of course, is the Blessed Virgin Mary.
  • While Mary doesn’t fulfill the role of a shepherd, she does help to point out for us the way tosalvation. Even more importantly, our Lady helps to form us into living images of her Son,endowing us with grace to grow in holiness so that we might be pleasing to Him.
  • Thus, just as we should entrust ourselves to Jesus the Good Shepherd, we should also entrustourselves to the maternal care of His mother, for by our Lord’s divine pleasure, Mary hasbeen given the role of Co-Redemptrix – one who helps with our redemption.
  • It’s not that our Lord needs Mary to do this. Our Lord is omnipotent, and thus He needs nohelp in redeeming fallen mankind. However, out of His own divine pleasure our Lord hasgiven to Mary a particular role in the redemption of man.
  • While her role in the redemption of man is not equal to that of Jesus’ role, her role is unique,and it flows out of her divine motherhood and her sharing in the life of Christ, mostespecially at the foot of the cross.
  • Blessed John Paul II explained that, “Having created man ‘male and female’ (cf. Gn 1:27),the Lord also wants to place the New Eve beside the New Adam in the Redemption. Our first parents had chosen the way of sin as a couple; a new pair, the Son of God with his Mother’s co-operation, would re-establish the human race in its original dignity.” (Pope’s Wednesday audience, April 1997).
  • Moreover, the Second Vatican Council teaches us that our Lady is not only the “Mother of the divine Redeemer”, but that she is also “in a singular way the generous associate”, who “co-operated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in giving back supernatural life to our souls.” Thus, Mary is also a mother to us in the “order of grace” (cf. Lumen Gentium, #61).
  • So it is that we should turn to Mary with all our needs, most especially as we struggle with temptation and sin, and as we seek growth in virtue.
  • Our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the Good Shepherd. And as the One who guides us to salvation, He has given us the gift of His Immaculate Mother to help us through the difficulties of this life.
  • Let us not simply turn to her in our need, but let us entrust ourselves whole-heartedly to Mary, confident that she will procure for us every grace we need to get to Heaven.
  • O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

 

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
To enable the audio, please go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

Link to Homilies:
http://stanncharlotte.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=8&Itemid=61

22 July 2012

 

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