God is absolutely, always, faithful to his promises.
In our first reading tonight, God makes a promise to Abram, later to be called Abraham. God calls on him to make an act of faith and go to a foreign land to become a great nation. This would be a great miracle, because Abram and his wife Sarai, were childless into their old age, and had given up hope of ever having a child. God promised to give Abram descendants and a land to live on, and God, who is absolutely, always, faithful to his promises did just that: Abram’s descendants are numerous and they inherited the land as God promised.
In our Gospel reading tonight, Jesus calls his disciples, including us, to stop judging, so that we might have forgiveness for our own sins. If we are always looking for faults in our brothers and sisters, we can’t see the goodness of God in them, nor can they see it in us. But if we admit our own faults, and forgive the faults of others, we are open to the forgiveness that Jesus promises. And God, who is absolutely, always, faithful to his promises, does just that: he forgives us time and time again.
Today we begin our parish Vacation Bible School, where we will travel with Mary to the many places that she has appeared to people over the centuries. Mary was faithful to God’s plan for her life, and because of that, she gave birth to Jesus our Savior. She was the first of all the disciples and a witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Over the centuries, she continued to bring God’s love and mercy to people all over the world, causing many people to come to believe in God and receive his grace through the Sacraments of the Church. She has appeared to people in Fatima, Medjugorje, Lourdes, Knock, and Guadalupe, just to name a few! And every time she appeared, she helped people to know that God loves them and forgives them and is absolutely, always, faithful to his promises.
When I was in the Holy Land in 2019, I got to visit the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. It was a wonderful place, because we know that is the house where Mary lived, where she heard God’s plan from the Angel Gabriel, and where she and Saint Joseph raised Jesus. But all that is in the Basilica now are the interior walls of the house and the foundation. The outside walls and roof are all gone. You might think they caught fire or were destroyed in the centuries since, but that’s not the case.
Just on the eve of the house being destroyed by infidels during the Crusades, the house, which had survived similar attacks in the past, was picked up during the night, and brought by angels to what is now Yugoslavia. Shepherds, who worked in the nearby fields, came one morning to see a house that had never been there before, and contained an altar, a statue of Mary, and a Crucifix. The priest of the parish, who was crippled with arthritis, prayed to know where the house had come from, and Mary answered him in a dream:
“’Know that his house,’ she said, ‘is the same in which I was born and brought up. Here, at the Annunciation….I conceived the Creator of all things. Here, the Word of the Eternal Father became man. The altar which was brought with the house was consecrated by Peter, the Prince of the Apostles. This house has now come to your shores by the power of God….And now in order that you may bear testimony of all these things, be healed. Your unexpected and sudden recovery shall confirm the truth of what I have declared to you.’”
The priest was cured, and the house was venerated for three years, before it was once again moved by angels. This time, people saw it getting moved, and ended up in the Marche region of Italy. Unfortunately bandits surrounded the house, and Our Lord moved the house again, this time to Lecanati. This caused a fight between the brothers that owned the property, and so the house was moved again, finally, to Loreto in Italy, where it remains today.
During that time, scientists went to the Holy Land to examine the spot in Nazareth where the house had been. They were able to confirm that the house is the same size as its foundation that remained in Nazareth, and that the building materials were all those used in Nazareth, and not in any of the places the house had moved to! Over the years, of course, people came to visit and pray at the house, and many people were cured of illnesses there, just as the priest in Yugoslavia had been.
During this week of Vacation Bible School, you will learn that Mary has continued to make the love and mercy of God in Jesus known all throughout the world. She is the first and greatest of all the disciples of Jesus. And through her intercession, many miracles have taken place, and lives have been changed. Because God is absolutely, always, faithful to his promises.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.