Thursday, December 29, 2016

Mary the Mother of God. "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let what you have said be done…"

Today I want to talk about Our Lady who was chosen by God to play such a wonderful role in salvation. When the angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, God asked her something quite extraordinary. First of all it seems that having children was not part of her plan, even though she was in the process of getting married. In fact she was already legally married. It would have been the most normal and natural thing in the world to have children, so why did she question the angel when Gabriel told her she was to bear a son? Her reply was, ‘But how can this be since I do not know man?’ Perhaps it was because she intended to dedicate her life to God without having children; we don’t know exactly. God was basically asking her if she was prepared to forego her own plans for her life and follow the path that God was asking her to take. No doubt Our Lady had wonderful plans for her life, holy plans as to how she would serve God and then she was presented with this strange message from the angel which must have thrown everything into confusion. ‘Will you follow a completely different path to the one you had in mind?’ Although Mary was afraid—and she was afraid—she said yes. ‘Let it be done to me as you have said.’

Now skip a few months further on when it starts to become obvious that she is pregnant. You can imagine the confusion this brought to Joseph when he realised she was expecting. No doubt he knew that Mary was a very holy woman, so this would have made absolutely no sense. Trying to explain it to him would have made even less sense. At that time in their culture a woman who was found to be pregnant outside of marriage could be stoned to death. No doubt people began talking. So there was a lot of suffering for Mary and Joseph from the beginning as neither of them were sure how to handle it, or to explain it, but Mary trusted that God would sort it out and He did, but not in the way she expected and not without difficulty. This was to be the pattern of her life. So many things were to happen that she didn’t expect or understand. 


 When Jesus was born it was in difficult and humiliating circumstances, which must have seemed quite out of place for someone who was to be so important. They heard talk of angels in the sky and shepherds coming to tell them about what they had seen. Then they had to flee the country because the child was in danger of being killed, but Mary trusted that God would look after her. That doesn’t mean that she just accepted all that was happening calmly. Like any of us I’m sure she worried and she was afraid, but at the same time she believed that God would sort it out.

As Jesus was dying on the cross she must have wondered about all the things the angel had said about him. ‘He will be great and will be called “Son of the Most High” and his kingdom will have no end’. Was she not remembering properly; was that all a dream? Now he was dying a horrible death right in front of her and then after three days Jesus rises from the dead; the last thing anyone was expecting. Through all this I’m sure Mary was often afraid, worrying, confused; and yet she trusted. This is what we are also asked to do and that is why Mary is not only our Mother, but a model of faith for us. She has been through it and so she understands us perfectly. More importantly she came out the other side of it. Now we say of her ‘You are the highest honor of our race.’

Believing that God will sort things out doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to worry, or be afraid. They are normal human responses. Sometimes I think we believe that if we really trust God then we should be totally at peace and not at all worried, but that is simply not how we are as human beings. I think our strength is to look at Mary and other saints and see what happened to them. They suffered, but they also went on believing.

At the foot of the cross Our Lady was entrusted to John the apostle. Now in John’s Gospel, John the disciple is presented as the model disciple, the one who is close to Jesus, the one who believes when he sees the empty tomb. He represents all of us, you could say. And Jesus gives Mary to him (to us) as our Mother. She is the one who will guide us, and keep us on the right track. She is the one we often turn to for help. She is not God, she is a human being, but one who was given an extraordinary place in God’s plan for us. 

Mary is also the one who has been sent to us in many different parts of the world—Knock, Lourdes, Fatima, Akita and others—why? To point us back in the right direction, because that is what mothers do and no doubt that is why God sends her. She has always given essentially the same message, that we cannot live without God and if we try to we may well destroy ourselves. God must be at the centre.  Our Lady acts as a signpost for God. ‘He is the one, follow him.’ Just like at the wedding at Cana: ‘Do whatever He tells you.’

When you find yourself confused, afraid, worried sick, remember Our Lady and what she went through. This is why she is such a great source of comfort for us and a great sign of hope. She made it and if we follow the right path, we’ll make it too.

Our Lady, refuge of sinners: pray for us.

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