June 9 – Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

One summer, I was teaching first and second graders about salvation history. I was teaching them about how Mary is the New Eve because, as we can see on so many statues of Mary, she crushes the head of the serpent. As I was saying this, all the first and second graders spontaneously stood up and began stomping on imaginary serpents. In some way, they had gotten the message.

But the First Reading which says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” Doesn’t that mean that Jesus will crush the head of the serpent? Yes, but this passage traditionally reads (in the Latin Vulgate), “She will crush your head.” So which is it? As with many aspects of our faith, the answer is both. Mary crushes the head of the serpent in union with and through the victory of Jesus on the Cross.

Jesus says, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” Even though Satan’s kingdom may not be divided, he delights in sowing division in others. Through the doubt that he has planted in the hearts of Adam and Eve, Satan has successfully divided them from God, from each other, from nature, and internally. They are unable to stand, and because of this, God promises them the woman and her offspring who will crush the head of the serpent, namely Mary and Jesus.

This is what we see in the Gospel. Jesus gains a reputation for driving out demons, even saying that He has tied up the strong man, Satan, to plunder his house. He clearly demonstrates His coming victory over Satan. In the midst of this conversation, Mary and Jesus’ relatives arrive. At first glance, it might seem like Jesus is dismissing them, but we need to look carefully at what He says: “For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mary is Jesus’ mother not only in virtue of giving birth to Him but also because she does the will of God better than any other human person. We see this most clearly at the Annunciation when she says, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to your word,” but her entire life is a “yes” to God. In doing this, she also crushes the head of the serpent in union with Christ.

This union of Jesus and Mary through doing the will of God undoes the division sown by Satan, and shows us that we also can crush the head of the serpent. If anyone who does the will of God is Jesus’ brother and sister and mother, then all we need to do is imitate Mary in staying in union with Jesus Who has already won the victory. When we do this, like my first and second graders, we can also stomp on the head of the serpent.

Father Frank