The deep aspect of the Church—called forth by Simeon during the presentation of the infant Christ in the Temple (Luke 2:34)—that so often becomes lost in the modern world, with its comfort, ease, tendency to go along to get along, and lack of easily perceived martyrs—though are not the millions of aborted babies such—yet as Pope John Paul II reminds us, the Church is surely a sign of contradiction in the world.
Over the next two days (first of ten posted on May 9th) I will continue to post excerpts from the final chapter of the first book published in English by John Paul—in 1979—Sign of Contradiction, which is a collection of talks then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla preached during the annual Lenten Retreat in March 1976 to his predecessor, Pope Paul VI.
A more recent and related series of reflections by Dr. John C. Rao, is available online at the Roman Forum, The War of the Words Against the Word, which examines in depth the ongoing war against the Church, as noted by Dr. Rao: “What, exactly, is the nature of this war? As various nineteenth century Catholic apologists were perhaps the first clearly to note, it is a conflict waged by those who fully accept the Way, the Truth and the Life brought into the world through the Incarnation against others who furiously reject it. That clash is rendered inevitable and permanent primarily due to the existence of the Mystical Body of Christ---the Church---as an organized, active agent of the Incarnation and its message. For the Church is a force which has proven to be a powerful, effective, rage-provoking “sign of contradiction” to all the many opponents of Christ.” (2nd para., 1st p.)
In today’s excerpt from Sign of Contradiction, we can see the promise of Mary’s help even now, especially now.
“The Holy Father has proclaimed Mary Mother of the Church, and using this title has invoked her whom the Church venerates her as the most sublime model she has.
"Both holy scripture, so rich in metaphor as we have just found, and the experience of the faithful see the Mother of God as the one who in a very special way is united with the Church at the most difficult moments in her history, when the attacks on her become most threatening. And this is in full accord with the vision of the woman revealed in Genesis and Revelation. Precisely in periods when Christ, and therefore his Church, Pope, bishops, priests, religious and all the faithful become the sign which provokes the most implacable and premeditated contradiction, Mary appears particularly close to the Church, because the Church is always in a way her Christ, first the Christ-child and then the crucified and risen Christ.
“If in such periods, such times in history, there arises a particular need to entrust oneself to Mary—as the Holy Father did on 8th December 1975, the 10th anniversary of the end of the Council—that need flows directly from the integral logic of the faith, from rediscovery of the whole divine economy and from understanding of its mysteries.
“The Father in heaven demonstrated the greatest trust in mankind by giving mankind his Son (cf. John 3:16). The human creature to whom he first entrusted him was Mary, the woman of the proto-evangelium (cf. Genesis 3:15), then Mary of Nazareth and Bethlehem. And until the end of time she will remain the one to whom God entrusts the whole of his mystery of salvation." (pp. 204-205)