January 4, 2024 // Diocese

Bishop to Seminarians: Make Mary Your Model of Faith

The celebration of the Nativity marks the beginning of a mission that affected the world; likewise, God’s newest ministers are discerning their futures and preparing to become effective in the contemporary Church.

On Wednesday, December 20, Bishop Rhoades ate and worshiped with the seminarians of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend ahead of the Christmas season at St. Jude Church in Fort Wayne. The seminarians, who recently returned for Christmas break, were invited to bring family or close friends.

Photos by Bethany Beebe
Bishop Rhoades celebrates Mass for diocesan seminarians and their families at St. Jude Parish in Fort Wayne on Wednesday, December 20. Those in attendance gathered afterward for a Christmas luncheon.

Those in attendance at the Mass heard readings expressing holy anticipation of the coming of Christ. Bishop Rhoades said that since the Second Vatican Council, the O Antiphons have been sung as part of the Acclamation before the Gospel from December 17-23, proclaiming that Jesus is the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. “In each antiphon, we cry out ‘Come!’ since, even though the Messiah came 2,000 years ago, we pray for Him to come to us in the present, to come to save us, to give us His life and His grace, His healing, His love,” Bishop Rhoades said.

The special Mass with the seminarians fell on the fourth day of the O Antiphons and described Jesus as the Key to the house of David who can free us from our prisons of sin, Bishop Rhoades said. “We invoke His royal power as the Son of David, the new King, to free us from sin and death. That’s why God became incarnate, to open for us the way to eternity. He is the key that opens for us the gates of His eternal Kingdom of truth and life, of joy and peace.”

The day’s Gospel reading served as a reminder of a noteworthy facet of Gabriel’s message being delivered, Bishop Rhoades said; Mary’s betrothal was to a man of David’s lineage, and the Davidic line’s throne of power was promised to the Blessed Virgin’s offspring. The New Testament offering makes reference to an Old Testament proclamation by Nathan to David: “Your house and Your kingdom are firm forever before me; Your throne shall be firmly established,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Many of the Old Testament prophets foretold that a future heir of King David would free the people from their oppressors and usher in an everlasting kingdom.”

Bishop Rhoades asked listeners to imagine what it must have been like for Mary, a faithful but common person, to be told she would carry the Messiah who would “rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Doubly hard for her, Bishop Rhoades said, would be grasping the notion of royal lineage over which the Child would grow to rule forever. “He would have the key of David,” Bishop Rhoades said, “of the Davidic kingdom, but as the Son of God, He would have the key of the Kingdom of God, the key of heaven.”

With the key to her life’s calling, her vocation, Mary took action to make God’s request a reality. “She actively and lovingly embraced God’s will,” Bishop Rhoades said, “not with passive resignation, not as some burdensome duty. She actively and lovingly embraced God’s will.” Bishop Rhoades pointed to Mary’s visit to Elizabeth as one way she took action quickly.

He continued, calling Mary the greatest example of faith, service, and love that we have. “Mary trusted totally in God,” he said. “She surrendered herself entirely to the Lord’s plan. Mary enthusiastically sought to make her life a gift to God and joyfully accepted her mission.”

Bishop Rhoades credited Mary and her landmark actions in forwarding God’s hope of liberation for His children, Israel. “It is because of Mary’s cooperation with God’s plan for our salvation that the Incarnation took place, that the Son of David and Son of God was conceived and born, that the key of David became the key to the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus here on earth in the Church. Later, Jesus would give the keys to the Kingdom to Peter. United with Peter’s successor, our mission is to spread Christ’s Kingdom on earth.”

Bishop Rhoades did not leave listeners with a message that the Good News was limited to days of old. “Our participation now in the life of the Church,” he said, “is a participation already in the eternal Kingdom of God.”

After the Mass, the seminarians and their guests were treated to a luncheon catered by Classic Cafe and sponsored by the Blessed Solanus Casey Society. The society’s goal is to pray for and support seminarians and vocations. In the basement of St. Jude, the seminarians were introduced, Bishop Rhoades shared a blessing on the meal, and Christmas gifts were shared.

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