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Homily on Our Lady of Mount Carmel by Fr. Robert Altier 3

Fr. Robert Altier

In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that Mary is our mother. Thanks be to Him, He has also pointed out to Our Lady that we are her children. And the disciple, we are told, took her into his home.

That is precisely what is required of each one of us. Now we can ask ourselves, "Why do we say such a thing, that Mary is our mother?" People will say, "Well, it was to the beloved disciple that Jesus did that; it wasn't for each one of us." But the fact is that each one of us is a beloved disciple, and each one of us is to have Mary as our mother.

Saint Paul makes the same point very clear in the reading that we heard from his Letter to the Galatians: "God has sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law to free from the law those who were subject to it." And for what purpose? So that we might become the children of God. It says that God has made us sons, and if we are sons we are also heirs. We are an heir of Heaven, an heir of God Himself. If we are sons of God, because we are members of Jesus Christ, we are children, then, of the same woman, born of the same woman. Not born physically of the same woman, but born spiritually of the same woman.

Now, once again, one could ask, "How can that be said?" It has to do completely with the nature of a covenant. Each one of us who is baptized into Jesus Christ is a member of Christ; we know that. If we are a member of Jesus Christ, sharing in His life, then we are children of our heavenly Father. For that reason, Saint Paul says that we can cry out "Abba, Father!" But if we are members of Christ and can call God our Father, then we are members of the same Christ who is the Son of Mary and we can cry out "Emma, Mother!" We can call her our mother.

We see this exact same point in the first reading. Elijah sends his servant Gehazi up to look out over the sea seven times. In Hebrew the word "seven" is sheba. We always hear that seven means it is a perfect number. But the word "seven" (in Hebrew sheba) means "a covenant". So on the seventh time, Gehazi sees the cloud rising up out of the sea, the cloud that is going to bring the rain that ends the drought that had been for three years and is going to water the earth. That cloud has been recognized as Our Lady, the one who brings the rain, the one who brings the dew to our parched and lifeless souls to be able to bring forth new life. It is the covenant. Jesus is the covenant carried in the womb of Our Lady just as the rain is carried in the cloud and then bursts forth upon the earth. So too, Our Lady is the one who carries that covenant of Our Lord and brings Him to each one of our souls.

This is exactly what Our Lord is talking about. His mother is the one who has carried Him and carried us spiritually. It is His mother who has borne each one of us spiritually. It is His mother, then, in this way that has brought us into the covenant. And as members of the covenant, we are children of God and children of Mary, we are sharers in the life of Jesus Christ, we are heirs of God and heirs of eternity. Therefore, we can call Mary our mother. We can recognize that the life we have been given in Christ is a life that God gives through Our Lady. And so as Jesus looks down from the Cross - and each one of us is to be standing at the foot of that Cross united with Him in His suffering - He looks at each one of us and says those beautiful words: "Behold, your mother."

*This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.

Wednesday July 16, 2003

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Reading I (Kings 18:42b-45a)

Reading II (Galatians 4:4-7)

Gospel (St. John 19:25-27)

Today as we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, we recall that this mountain of Carmel (which is really a 26-mile long mountain range up in the northwestern part of Israel) is the place that people were dedicated to Our Lady from hundreds of years before Our Lady was even born. Because the people of Israel recognized that the Messiah was going to be born of a woman and born under the law, as Saint Paul told us, to redeem from the law those who were subjected to it, there were hermits that lived in the caves on Mount Carmel for hundreds of years and they were devoted to the future Mother of the Redeemer.

It goes all the way back to the prophet Elijah. That is why we heard that first reading of Elijah climbing up Mount Carmel and looking out at the sea. If you look at a map of Israel, the western edge of the mountain of Carmel is at a place that is called Haifa. You go right up the Mediterranean Coast; it is just that little part that sticks out into the water. That is where Mount Carmel is and that is where Elijah climbed up to see that after three years the drought was going to be ended, a symbol of the fact that for thousands of years people had been waiting for the Messiah. Now finally the Messiah was about to come, and He was going to be born of a woman. So it was a symbol of the drought and the rain that came to end the drought. Our Lady is seen in the symbol of the cloud; Jesus, of course, being the rain that falls to water the parched ground – which is our hearts and our souls – to fill us with the grace that God has brought to us through Him for our salvation.

Because of the fact that He is born under the law, these men were on this mountain praying for the woman who would be the one who would give birth to the Messiah. And in fulfillment of all of their hopes, we are told in Saint Matthew’s Gospel that when they returned to Nazareth from Egypt they went by a different route. They did not want to go through Jerusalem because that was where Herod’s son, the king, was, and so they steered away from there. They went up along the Mediterranean Coast and that would bring them right to Mount Carmel. Then if you turn inward from Mount Carmel, you go directly to Nazareth. At that point, then, Our Lady stopped at Mount Carmel to show to the hermits who were living there the Messiah whom they had been longing for and to show herself as the woman for whom they had been praying for all of these hundreds of years as they prepared Israel for their Messiah.

So too for us, she always brings us to the mystical mountain, that is, to Jesus Christ Who is the Mountain Whom we are to climb to be in union with God. She is also the one whom Our Lord has given us, as we heard in the Gospel reading, to be our mother. So it is not merely that the Messiah was born of a woman and born under the law, but it was to free those who were subject to the law. As Saint Paul makes very clear in the reading where he talks about the two different mothers, talking about Hagar and Sarah, that one is the slave woman and one is the free woman, he tells us that we are children of the free woman. This is critical because we too would be subject to the law except that Jesus, on the Cross, gave us His mother. We then have the freedom of the children of God because we have for a mother the one who is the Mother of God and thereby we are incorporated into the Son of God. We are then children of God and children of Mary, freed from the law so that the law that we have to live under is a new law, that is, a law of love, not a love of subjection any longer.

The commandment of Jesus is a very simple one: to love. That is the call that is ours. And the way that we learn to love more perfectly than any other way is to go to Our Lady, who will bring us to her Son. She is the one who loved Jesus perfectly. She is the one who will form us. She only had one Son, so she knows how to form only one Person. She will form each one of us into the perfect image and likeness of her Son, which means that she will teach us how to love perfectly.

And so we need to turn to her. We need to be like those hermits from Mount Carmel who were devoted, not only to the future Messiah, but to the Mother of the Messiah. We need to turn to this extraordinary woman and ask her to form us to be true children of God so that on the day we are called from this life we will have been made perfectly into the image of Jesus Christ and we will be prepared to enter into the fullness of life which is symbolized by Mount Carmel, the glorious union with God which is not only possible for eternity but is possible even in this life, to have complete union with Jesus Christ. The only way to do that is in and through His mother. So if we are willing to enter into her heart and enter into her maternal womb to be able to be formed there, then we too can be another Christ and we can be united with Christ in the Immaculate Heart of His Blessed Mother.

*This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

July 16, 2004

Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Reading I (1 Kings 18:42b-45a)

Reading II (Galatians 4:4-7)

Gospel (St. John 19:25-27)

In the Gospel reading today, we hear about Our Lord giving us to His mother and giving His mother to each one of us. Now each one of us is called to be that beloved disciple of the Lord; and as the beloved disciple of the Lord, He tells us that we are no longer slaves but we are His friends. And more than that, because of the sacrifice of Our Lord, He has drawn us into His very heart. Through Baptism we have become members of Christ Himself, and therefore we can call God our Father. Well, if we are members of Jesus Christ and we can call God our Father, we can therefore call Mary our mother. If we share a common Father, if we are members of the same Person, we also have to share a common mother.

If we need any clarity about that, again we see in the Gospel that He gives His mother to us. Now one could say, “He gave His mother to Saint John to take care of,” but the reality is, as we pointed out many times before, in Saint John’s Gospel there are two people whose names are never used, and that is Our Lady and Saint John. The reason Saint John’s name is never used is that he is simply called the “beloved disciple”, and that is because he represents each one of us who is a beloved disciple. What we have to ask our own selves then is if we are living as a beloved disciple, that is, if we are truly seeking to do God’s Will, if we are living as children of our heavenly Father, and if we are opening our hearts to receive our mother into our home. Not so much into our physical home, although obviously we want to have some shrine or statues or pictures to honor our Blessed Lady, but it is in the home of the heart where she needs to have a place – a very, very special place.

We want to have Our Lord present within us, and indeed He dwells within us if we are in the state of grace, along with His Father and the Holy Spirit. But the reality is that you cannot separate Jesus and Mary. As we know, every single time that we see Our Lady mentioned in the Gospels, she is wherever Jesus is. She is never appearing on her own someplace, but rather she is where He is. If He dwells in our hearts, so does she. If He is present in Holy Communion, she is going to be there; not that we receive our Blessed Lady when we receive Holy Communion, but rather when we open our hearts to receive Our Lord we should also be opening our hearts to receive our Blessed Lady. So as we receive Holy Communion, one beautiful practice is simply to ask Our Lady to place her Immaculate Heart within you so that as you receive her Son in Holy Communion it is she, in you, who will receive our Blessed Lord so that He will be able to enter into an immaculate place – her heart, that He will be loved with her love, that He will be loved perfectly. That is what we want to be able to give to our Blessed Lord.

The goal for all of us is to be able to live the life of Christ. If we want to live the life of Christ, we need to learn from His most perfect disciple: His mother. So we want to be able to imitate her in all things because she is the one who was most perfectly like her Son. Obviously, none of us is going to be without sin, but what we need to do is strive to remove sin from our lives. Each one of us is able to climb that Mountain of Carmel to be able to look out over the sea and to be able to see our salvation coming forth. As the opening prayer said, that Mountain of Carmel is Jesus Himself. And Saint John of the Cross makes very clear that the way to climb Carmel is the way of nothing; it is pure faith. It is to rely solely on our Blessed Lord and to walk straight up the Mountain. That is exactly what Our Lady did, so she has already cleared the path for all of her children to be able to walk the Mountain, to be able to find union with Christ.

So it is for all of us to realize, and what a wonderful gift it is, that Our Lady wants nothing more for each one of us than union with her Son. What she desires more than anything else is that we will be perfectly united with her Son, that we will love her Son as perfectly as we can. If we are willing to allow her, she herself will arrange for that. She is, after all, a mother, and so she will take care of everything for us, tidying the home of our heart, if you will, and preparing that home to be a worthy dwelling place for her Son. But that requires first that we have to open our hearts, our homes, to be able to receive her, to be able to learn from her, that as the apostles in the Acts of the Apostles gathered around Our Lady and she taught them how to pray and she taught them how to understand the truth and she taught them how to do the Will of God, we need to go to the exact same place, to the one who has done it perfectly, and we need to ask her to teach us how to love her Son, how to do His Will, how to make sure that we are seeking perfect union with Him in prayer. She is the one who will teach us. She has already done it, and it is more than anything what she wants for each one of us because she wants her Son to be loved perfectly. What a joy if we would be able, with Our Lady, even in this world, to love Jesus perfectly, to grow to such a degree of holiness that we will have union with Him so that when we get to heaven we will continue to love Him perfectly. We will have that perfect union, that face-to-face union which will only be in heaven, but it begins now by seeking union with Jesus Christ. And the perfect way to union with Jesus Christ is union with His mother.

*This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.


As Carmelites We live our life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a clear conscience through a commitment to seek the face of the living God (the contemplative dimension of life), through prayer, through fraternity, and through service (diakonia). These three fundamental elements of the charism are not distinct and unrelated values, but closely interwoven. 

All of these we live under the protection, inspiration and guidance of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we honor as "our Mother and sister."