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(A meditation through the eyes of Mary - Beneath Thy Protection)
Acts 1; Luke 1, 24; Matthew 28; John 8, 15; Romans 11; Ezekiel 11

The day of Pentecost has arrived. My eyes flutter open on this new and soon-to-be glorious day, the day my Son promised to send the Holy Spirit to overshadow his newly formed Church. Much has transpired over the past ten days since I witnessed my Son ascend into his heavenly kingdom to assume his rightful throne. I miss him terribly and cannot wait to be reunited with him in heaven. Thankfully, however, Peter has graciously continued to provide me with Jesus in the new manna. I am confirmed in faith that it is in this transfigured bread that I am able to gaze upon my Son’s face. Throughout his life here on earth, Jesus, God’s only begotten Son from all eternity, was restrained in his human body; now, I feel restrained in my human body as I can only behold him by faith. Even so, I know it is this faith that my Lord treasures when he finds it in his children.

As Jesus instructed before he ascended, we returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. It is only fitting that Jerusalem should be the place that the Holy Spirit gives life to his infant Church by clothing her with power from on high. Only then will my Son’s gospel message, along with his Church, spread from Jerusalem to all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth. Fortunately, we were able to secure lodging in the same upper room where Jesus transformed the old Passover into the New Covenant Passover. In fact, the owner of the property assured us that, whenever possible, he would always accommodate our group. Evidently, he and Jesus had developed a friendly relationship over the past year, and he himself had become a faithful follower.

Although it was hard to know for certain, I sensed, at the time of our arrival ten days ago, that there were more hidden believers dwelling within the city walls of Jerusalem than one would expect. While it was true that, upon entering the city, we were greeted with some angry glances and jeering remarks which proved unsettling to many of the disciples, I also noticed subtle gestures of kindness in the form of humble, knowing nods directed toward us. We were made aware of the spread of the slanderous rumor that Jesus’ disciples came by night and stole him away. However, the accurate story was also circulated that on the day Jesus rose from the dead, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.

The devil is conniving and relishes spreading lies. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. In addition, he aims to foster an atmosphere of fear and suspicion in order to discourage brotherhood among men. Indeed, he tries to isolate in order to depress true followers into thinking that they are alone in their faithfulness to God. But the Lord responds as he did to Elijah when he felt alone, “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. And those who live righteous lives and have clean hearts are not so easily deceived and are enabled to discern truth. I pray that many will be moved by the Spirit this day, hear the Word of God, and choose to follow my Son.

Once we were settled in the upper room of the house, I impressed upon all the gathered disciples the importance of receiving each day the daily bread, the Real Presence of Jesus in the new Passover, given to us by the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit acting through my Son’s ordained priests. That, together with our commitment to prayer, would prepare us for the arrival of the Holy Spirit. In this way, I explained, we would be properly disposed to receive as many graces and blessings as possible on the day when our God will say, “I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

More than ever, over this past week, I have felt Joseph’s presence. I know he is working closely with Jesus in forming, guiding, and protecting these first of what will be many priests of the New Covenant. Since our return to Jerusalem my thoughts have frequently turned to the time I spent with him as he guided and safeguarded me when I was pregnant with my sweet Jesus. The nine months I carried Jesus in my womb were months filled with excitement and anticipation as I prepared for his glorious birth.

The feeling I had then is not unlike that which I have experienced these past nine days and am currently encountering as I await the birth of my Son’s Church. Earlier this week, I was compelled to proclaim over and over again the greatness of my God, for truly my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for the wonderful work he is doing in his Church, as he did in me many years ago. Within those first few days of waiting, an increased number of believers surfaced at our doorstep; in fact, the number had grown at an incredible rate, not unlike a tiny human being after conception. These new converts have sought from me a deeper understanding of Jesus’ love so that they too might draw closer to him. As a result of this rapid growth, fatigue sometimes overwhelmed me as I contemplated, “If I am so tired now, how will I continue to mother this Church when it grows to the size of a mustard tree?” Yet, I found comfort in knowing that my Lord has always sustained my every need, and I reaffirmed my determination to fulfill my maternal vocation. Like the most fragile of humans forming within the safety of his mother’s womb, this Church had already begun to display the fullness of life.

By mid-week, Peter approached me to discuss the need to fill Judas’ vacated office with another and declared that it should be one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection. He further revealed that Jesus had instructed him to do so, but he wasn’t certain whether he should proceed before or after the feast of Pentecost. I explained, as if Joseph were speaking through me, that since my Son established his Church with twelve offices to act as twelve foundation stones for this new Israel, it would be at its fullest strength if all of those offices were filled prior to the promised coming of the Holy Spirit. Peter concurred and then added with a smile, “Have you seen how our numbers have increased? We probably have well over a hundred followers! Jesus is certainly stirring the waters to attract them to us!”

I answered him with excitement in my voice, “This is true. Jesus is using you to minister on his behalf. Your prayers and your actions are attracting brothers and sisters to the faith. For when the elders of the Church are holy, the faithful in turn will follow in holiness.” I felt compelled to continue with a warning, “But, conversely, as you saw during the passion of my Son, when the elders forsake the truth and flee in fright, the faithful are also scattered. It is a great mystery, but the more you work in unison with my Son, by allowing him to carry out his ministry in and through you, the more the Church will succeed and flourish. Therefore, as it is with each individual soul, so it is with the whole Church. For success, prayer will be critical to your ability to discern the difference between your will and God’s.”

With a grateful heart, Peter left, visibly displaying a confidence that he understood his assignment, and I was left to contemplate the joy that enveloped me as I began to witness the expansion of this embryonic Church, as a mother does when she begins to feel the stirrings of her child deep within her womb. It took Peter very little time to gather before him a huge crowd of believers (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty). With a bold demeanor and an assumed authority, which reflected a considerable amount of time spent in prayer, Peter began, “Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry.”

I thought to myself as Peter spoke, “There probably will be many who cannot imagine an all-knowing God picking a man such as Judas, a man he knew would betray him and be lost. And yet, Jesus still invited him to have a share in his ministry. No doubt Jesus ascertained that there would be more ‘Judas’ bishops. He loved Judas, but he would never force his love on anyone. It has always been the desire of God to form with man a loving relationship that requires man to respond in love. And our loving God will never remove our freedom, which was the very first gift he bestowed on the human race after breathing his life into us, for to do so would negate the law of love. Therefore, the lesson of Judas demonstrates that the faithful should not be scandalized by wayward shepherds. It happened with Judas, and it will happen again. But it shall be rare. My Son’s chosen leaders will have the protective guidance of my dear Joseph and me.”

As if prompted by Joseph and his ancestor David, Peter continued with evidence to support his declaration, “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it’; and ‘His office let another take.’” Everyone was in agreement. It is always with a joyful heart that a mother sees her children working in accord with each other. So they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed with Peter leading them, “Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles.

As the close of the week drew near it became evident that the developing Church was growing with more energy than ever. It seemed that all in Jerusalem were aware of this new phenomenon and the excitement it was evoking, and, therefore, the ruling class in Jerusalem found it threatening, just as they had Jesus. This enhanced the fright of many of the disciples, who continued to lock the door of the upper room. Patiently, I continued my prayer, with confidence that soon the coming of the Holy Spirit would cure the disease of sin and help the disciples overcome all the ailments of their fallen nature. Even so, as the due date approached, the men spent a great deal of time prayerfully conversing and planning as the women of our group and I were busy weaving new priestly garments for the apostles, seamless like my Son’s—preparations not unlike those of expectant parents readying for the birth of their precious new life. The last few days of this nine-day waiting period I felt quite full, and slightly uncomfortable, holding back all the anticipation that accompanies the arrival of an exciting event. The apostles, too, were eager and ready.

And now, finally, the day has arrived; and though I don’t know the exact hour of his coming, I press upon Peter my desire for all of our group to gather as one around the table to celebrate the new Passover as early in the morning as possible. He cannot refuse me, as he perceives my restless expectancy.

I never tire of seeing my family, especially those who form the core, Jesus’ twelve apostles and the few women who are most dear to me, all gathered together around one table, one altar, to share in this new Passover meal. As I scan my surroundings, a sweet memory comes to mind. Many years back, I was invited to share a family meal with some close friends. Gathered about the table were a married couple of many years and their large family of children. I noted the matriarch’s expression as she beamed with pride over the table packed with her loved ones. She and her husband had six grown sons and two daughters; they were a family with eight children, with three daughters-in-law and several grandchildren scampering about. The adults were all enjoying each other’s company with light-hearted jokes and stories of years shared in their childhood. It was a true display of our Lord’s promised shalom. This blessed mother’s countenance displayed a glory that only one in such a position could fully appreciate. However, I sensed at the time, through the fruit of her womb, she was foretasting a glimpse of the heavenly joy offered by our Lord. And I witnessed then his gift of that fullness in her through the blessing of a large family. Never did I dream that I would be in such a position. For I had consecrated myself to my Lord, my God, and offered to him, and to him alone, my virginity. And in doing so, I was presenting to him what I knew was a precious sacrifice, the possibility of having any children, much less the possibility of having a large family. I smile now, as my eyes absorb the gathering before me, for with God nothing will be impossible.

Indeed, like the matriarch from my memory, I know I am beaming at the image before me. Sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, who are all united in their love for each other, a love derived from my Son, are all listening intently and prayerfully as God’s holy oracles are read, hymns are sung, and stories of Jesus’ ministry are retold. The beauty and significance of all is then explained by Peter, our priestly father. Next, using the efficacious words of my Son, Peter consecrates the bread and the wine to bring forth, through the action of the Holy Spirit, the Real Presence of Jesus, not unlike the day of the angel’s annunciation to me thirty-three years ago.

I am preoccupied with the thought that we truly are one family, as we all receive our Lord in the breaking of the bread, sharing the same flesh and blood of our Savior, my Son. Not only am I able to gaze upon his Real Presence in the eucharistic bread and wine, but I can feel him as he moves within each of us as we commune on him and thereby are united as one body in Christ. I can hear in my mind my Son’s words replay at this moment, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.”

With my eyes closed, I am in ecstasy; I wholeheartedly open and offer my entire self to my Lord, my God, as I feel his presence and am utterly consumed by his love, to the extent that I lose my awareness of my own individuality, being subsumed into union with God. As if for the first time, I open my eyes, like a newborn drinking in the light of a new world, only to find that all the gathered disciples, my children, are huddled around me, tightly packed in an effort to find my embrace. They appear to be illuminated by a warm glow that is concentrated above me. Then, I witness Peter kneel before me, and the others follow his lead. “Receive his life,” I spontaneously proclaim from my inner depths and then add, “The glory that was mine since the angel’s annunciation, and the intimacy that Jesus and I alone shared, are now being channeled to you through me.” And suddenly a sound [comes] from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it fill[s] all the house. The brightness that had hovered over my head has now spread to all his and my loved ones. In wonderment, we look at each other as tongues as of fire are distributed and resting on each one. With the immediate realization that they have been filled with the Holy Spirit they all begin to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit [gives] them utterance. I cry with joy, “Go, and preach the gospel of my Son to all who will listen!”

The elation felt by a mother immediately following the birth of her child and upon hearing her child’s first cry of life is replicated in me, as my body instinctively and spontaneously brings forth tears of gratitude at the sight of my children being infused by the Spirit, and upon hearing them speak in other tongues, as the Spirit [gives] them utterance. The doors to their souls have been unlocked, and, with new courage, they rush out of the building and into the courtyard to impart to the world their jubilation.

The streets are packed with Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven, who are here to celebrate the feast of Pentecost. It has been seven full weeks since the start of the barley harvest, and they have come to give praise to the Lord for his manifold blessings and to offer him in a spirit of thanksgiving the first fruits of their harvest. However, the sound of this new Pentecost that filled the dwelling housing God’s children is heard by many, and my Son’s priests have a far superior celebration to share.

Looking out an open window of this upper room, I witness a multitude of curious men streaming toward the courtyard of our house, attracted to the sound of the Spirit pouring forth from these new priests of God who are shouting with joy and proclaiming, “Come. And let him who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.” Understandably, they appear confused and bewildered, because each one can hear them speaking in his own language. From my perch, I can hear several men saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

The scene before me is marvelous, truly incredible. Yet I know it should come as no surprise, as I have grown accustomed to the fact that my God can never exhaust his ability to amaze me. It is as if he is showing the world that his curse from ages past on those who tried, out of sin and pride, to build a tower to heaven in order to make a name for themselves, instead of giving glory to God, has been reversed. Centuries before, the family of sinful man was frustrated with the confusion of language, the “babel” of speech, and thereby scattered in order to thwart their evil intentions. But now with the outpouring of the Spirit, the Church’s “tower” is being built on the foundation of my Son’s apostles, with Jesus as the cornerstone. Indeed, Jesus is the structure, the Temple where all is done in his name, and the one through whom all are united back together as one family, with the understanding of one language, one teaching, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, as well as all humanity here on earth.

A growing murmur rises from the assembled crowd for all [are] amazed and perplexed, . . . “What does this mean?”

Some are scoffing and saying, “They are filled with new wine.”

I think as I smile to myself, “Indeed, they are filled with new wine, the new wine that is Jesus and his Spirit who will work through these disciples and their successors to set this world on fire with the love of God.”

From my vantage point I am able to catch a glimpse in the far distance of several of the Levites posing on the Temple stairs, waving bread offerings, before the gathered group of people. This juxtaposition of images is striking as I contemplate the fact that my Son’s priests have so much more to offer; they will offer the very Son of God, Jesus, who is the bread of life. They too will hold up the bread before the people, and the people will kneel in adoration. And it will be the ultimate thank offering to the Father.

Peter’s voice brings my attention back to the foreground of the scene. He is assuming his preaching role quite effectively as he explains that the phenomenon that these men have witnessed, the moving of the Spirit among the disciples, is actually something that was predicted by the prophet Joel. These devout Jews should not be astounded and should certainly not think that those graced by the Spirit are in any way drunk at such an early morning hour. Peter then boldly continues to profess, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

Then, using the words of our father, King David, Peter reinforces his case for Jesus. At this very moment, he is achieving the greatness that every mother hopes for her child. As I gaze over the crowd standing before him and the other disciples, I am filled with pride, and I am relieved to see so many of them listening, intently, with open hearts. Peter finally pauses to take a breath and to let his words sink in. It almost appears that even he is surprised by the boldness of his own testimony. After a moment, I hear a cry rising from the crowd, “Brethren, what shall we do?”

Without hesitation Peter answers, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

I immediately begin counting roughly by fives to get an estimate of the crowd. There are hundreds of people gathered in this courtyard and overflowing into the city streets bordering the house. I turn back toward the inside of our dwelling with my hand on my forehead and scan the room searching for ideas that will facilitate the baptism of so many people. I direct the women in the room with me to quickly find some drinking cups and follow me downstairs. “We will need twelve,” I shout with excitement over my shoulder.

We arrive outside just in time to follow the disciples out of the courtyard; they are inviting the crowd of people to follow them. Mary Magdalene, who is now beside me, asks, “Mother, where are they leading everyone?”

“To find water,” I answer and then continue, “but also space to accommodate all these people.” I weave my way through a few layers of bodies until I am beside Peter. He is striding quite confidently. His happiness is infectious as I see all the disciples smiling and laughing. I inform Peter that the women and I have brought along twelve cups and explain, “With this many people, it will be easier to baptize by sprinkling rather than full immersion.”

Peter responds as a man who is not concerned with details but only in fulfilling the will of God, “Absolutely, Mother, that makes perfect sense.”

I continue, “I also think it would be best to have twelve different stations manned by each apostle. The women and I will organize the mass of people accordingly.”

Peter grins widely and replies, “Thank you, Mother. I have no doubt the Spirit will make this a glorious day!”

I position myself close to Peter and witness dozens of people every hour receive baptism, the precious gift of eternal life, indeed, the very sonship of our Lord. I observe Peter tirelessly ask each individual to profess the basic tenets of the faith before he administers the sacrament, just as Jesus had taught him and the other apostles to do. Astonishingly, scores of people are being baptized by Peter alone, and yet I never tire of imagining the Holy Spirit descending upon each new child of God as he or she is sprinkled with water and sealed in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Spirit is hovering over this water causing it to be life-giving and truly bringing about a new world! I continually picture in my mind the image of a multitude of angels kneeling before each of these new creations being washed with that living water, . . . a spring of water welling up to eternal life, provided through the side of my Son, the holy Temple. I am certain that Jesus is smiling in his heavenly sanctuary as he works through his ministers here on earth.

A full seven hours later, we make our way back to our lodging. Everyone is exhausted, but also exuberant. It has been a remarkable day. Each of the twelve had several other disciples helping manage the large number of people desiring the saving waters of baptism. Mary Magdalene announces that she calculated that thirty-five people on average were baptized every hour where she was positioned. “If that is correct,” begins Peter as he pauses in an effort to figure the souls saved this day, “three thousand people were cleansed of all their sins, filled with the Spirit, and became children of God this day alone. Oh my! Jesus is certainly stirring the waters!”

As the room erupts in a rambunctious cheer, John manages to gather the attention by adding, “Do you realize . . . that is the same number of people who apostatized back in Moses’ day when they worshipped the Golden Calf? The number that died that day has been reversed by the same number that were made alive today. Do you think that is a coincidence?” Again, the room explodes with hearty laughter. John, who had asked with genuine seriousness, soon participates in the glee as he recognizes not only the goodness of the Lord but also the fact that there are no coincidences with God.

I sit back in the shadows of the room with a grateful heart, thinking of how blessed the New Israel is to have the outpouring of the Spirit, all as a result of the saving work of my Son. Now, because of baptism, the human race is invited to become children of God, and not just to be called children of God, but to actually have the very Spirit of God dwelling within their beings. So that when we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.

                                                                        * * *

Several days have passed, and each of these has been filled with the Lord adding to the flock of those being saved. As one family, all are devot[ing] themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Indeed, they are experiencing the fulfillment of the prayer that Jesus taught: “Give us each day our daily bread.” This had been the hope and dream of Israel: to once again receive the heavenly manna daily. They are now realizing that dream. The kingdom comes every time our Lord’s family gathers to celebrate the breaking of the bread; for wherever the king is present, so is his kingdom.

Witnessing how much my son Peter has grown over these past few weeks gives me great satisfaction, assurance, and pride. He is no longer concerned with his old trade of fishing; he is fully immersed in the mission of my Son. All of his needs and those of his brother priests are more than graciously met by the growing number of believers. My Son’s chosen twelve will soon ordain new priests in order to accommodate the growing Church which is destined to spread beyond Jerusalem. I will miss this incredible band of brothers as they proceed out in different directions to conquer the world for Christ. I will especially miss Peter and the special time we spent with our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. He has made impressive strides, and yet I smile as I see that his unique, colorful personality remains.

The rest of my time here on earth will be devoted to prayer for all my children, but particularly for my Son’s priests. While many of the apostles will leave to evangelize beyond Jerusalem, for now John will remain here in the city with me, along with my sweet daughter, Mary Magdalene. I am truly blessed!

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