Being raised in a Catholic-Protestant crossover household – my mother being a Catholic and my dad protesting everything that is Catholic – I had my reservations regarding complete devotion to Mary. I was baptized in the Catholic Church and raised in the Catholic traditions, following the sacraments and teachings of the Church. But my dad has developed a kind of rebellion towards the Church over a period of time and would challenge some of its traditions, one of which was the place of honor and privilege given to the Blessed Virgin.
As a result, (and I feel ashamed of myself as I say this) I too had developed a sense of unwillingness in fully dedicating myself to the Holy Mother and in believing with complete conviction in her role in God’s plan of redemption. I would ask her intercession and pray the rosary and all, but my heart was not in it. I would always be careful that my prayers do not amount to a prayer to Mary herself, thereby equaling her with God in any way. I would constantly remind myselves that the veneration to Mary is of the status of an interceder and not that of God. All these thoughts blocked or hindered the flow of grace into my life.
Mary is the woman that God chose to be the mother of His only begotten Son. She is the one to whom the savior was born. She is the one in whom the God’s promise of salvation and eternal redemption takes form. She is the first living tabernacle in which, in the fullness of time, the Word becomes flesh.
Jesus takes form from the flesh of Mary. Therefore, she had to be pure of every sin – even original sin – in order to bear this holy Son of God. She had no sin in her and in all her purity she becomes the mother of God and of all mankind. She is the second Eve through whom came the one who is to save the world and redeem us all of our sins.
Mary surrendered to the will of God and received the message of salvation in her heart as well as in her womb. She was with Jesus right from the time of His conception in her womb until His very death on the cross. She was standing right there at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ beloved disciple when Jesus called out to her “Behold, your son”, and thus giving into her hands the beloved disciple and, in him, each one of us. And to each one of us He also calls out “Behold, your mother.” (Jn 19:26-27)
Yes, Jesus gave His mother to us all. The words say “beloved disciple” of Jesus, and therefore it’s a message to each one of us who calls themselves the beloved disciple of Jesus. It’s a consolation that Jesus gives to John from the cross, and it extends to all of us.
We need to take Mary to our home and Mary will teach us the way to her Son. She, in spite of being a human, was free from sins and, therefore, is the perfect retort for the first Eve through whom sin came into this world. While the first Eve brought sin into the world, the second Eve brought salvation. This is why the Satan is terrified of Mary and this is why the Holy Rosary is said to be the most powerful tool against all evils.
Mary is the perfect ideal before us in our aspiration towards living a perfect Christian life. She shows us the greatest examples of absolute grace, total humility, complete self-surrender, perfect obedience, supreme wisdom, unwavering faith and unconditional love.
It is wonderful how, with just so little mention about her in the Gospels, Mary manages to teach us so much.
On being greeted by the angel Gabriel as “Hail, full of grace”, she humbly receives it with a pinch of “great perplexity”. When the angel informs her regarding her role in God’s plan of redemption, the humble “handmaid of the Lord” surrenders before the will of God saying “May it be done to me according to your word.” This was her humility, this was her submission. (Lk 1:26-38)
Mary shows us how we can love the way God loved us all. What greater example can we have for a love that is human as well as divine? God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son. Mary, in a similar way, surrendered before the Lord her God and out of her love for the Almighty – for what is love, but obedience itself (Jn 14:21-24) – unquestioningly gives up her Son on the cross without so much as word of regret, sorrow or doubt. She knew that amidst all her personal sorrows and losses, even when her heart was being pierced with a sword, the will of God must be done. This was her wisdom, this was her love, and this was her obedience.
That Mary can intercede and her intercession is a powerful tool is a well established reality. Just how influential Mary is and how much she can intervene in our lives is something we have personally known over the years and will know it still more in the years to come. She intervened and saved the day at the Cana wedding (Jn 2:1-11). Likewise, she is capable of intervening in our lives and also of saving us.
The Gospels teach us that the first miracle that Jesus performed was because of Mary’s request. It is not without reason that the first miracle by Jesus is attributed to Mary’s intercession. Jesus wanted to reveal the glory and power of His mother as He revealed His own.
“My hour has not come yet”, he tells Mary trying to shake off her request. But He still goes on to do it anyway, since His mother seemed not to have heard Him at all and, instead, told the servants to “Do whatever He tells you”. He was simply left with no choice but to honor His mother’s request. I find it both amusing and moving that Jesus, like any ordinary son, could not deny His mother’s wish. Now, isn’t that really sweet?
Jesus was yet to reveal His powers, and yet Mary somehow knew it already and believed that her Son was capable of great things. How do you think she knew something that was hitherto unknown to others? She sensed it, with a kind of an insight, because since the infancy of Jesus, she had “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). She was with Jesus from the womb to the tomb. She has known, and knows, Jesus more closely than any living human ever has.
Another remarkable aspect of the Cana Wedding is Mary’s profound faith in Jesus. She simply asked and simply believed, and she just wouldn’t take no for an answer. Was it this kind of faith that Jesus was talking about when He said, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mk 11:24)?
Mary is a spiritual gift that has been given to us by Jesus from His cross. It’s a treasure that has been given to us, not for material benefits but for spiritual favors. Let’s learn from her and practice her virtues in our lives.
Let us go to our Mother with a heart filled with love for her, not intentions. Let our Novenas be novenas of love and our Rosaries be roses of love offered at her feet. Let us just take this mother home with us, and everything else will be taken care of. She is the way to her loving Son – the way, the truth and the life.
Today, as the Church celebrates the feast of the Mother of God, I find it most fitting to post this blog and thus celebrate this great day of importance.
Totus tuus, Maria!