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Mary

5 Facts That Must Be Ignored Before Accusing Catholics Of “Mary Worship”!

 

I love the Blessed Mother! There…I said it and I’m glad I did! As a Catholic, I’m so blessed to be a member of the Church that truly honors and respects the Mother of my Lord and Savior. I must admit that, even though I’m a cradle Catholic, I didn’t always feel this way. In fact, for most of my life I didn’t understand Mary’s role or care about her too much. What a mistake! Now, after several recent accusations of “Mary worship” on my Facebook page, it’s time to stand up for my “Mom”. And, even though I love her and want to defend her honor, I have no intention of getting nasty. Rather, I’d prefer to present 5 facts about Mary. Before you accuse Catholics of worshiping Mary, I ask you to take a long hard look at these facts. They have a way of poking holes in the theory that we place too much emphasis on Mary. If you still want to accuse Catholics of worshiping Mary, then I suggest you ignore these facts!

1. God Sent The Savior Through Mary – I list this one first because it’s really tough to downplay Mary’s importance while acknowledging that the long awaiting Messiah came to earth by being born of a woman…and that woman was Mary. Out of all the ways that Jesus could have come to earth, why was Mary chosen? If Mary was important to God, shouldn’t she mean something to us?

2. Jesus Performed His First Miracle At Mary’s Request – This is another good one. Oh I know, Jesus didn’t need Mary to turn the water into wine at Cana. She just happened to be there. OK, why then did St. John list Mary FIRST in his list of wedding guests?

On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage with His disciples. (John 2:1-2)

If Mary is not important in this saga, why is she listed BEFORE the apostles and BEFORE Jesus? St. John the Evangelist was not known for inserting extraneous details. Mary is listed first because John wants to call the readers’ attention to her presence at the wedding.

But what about “the rebuke”? You know, the argument that Jesus was telling Mary to “butt out” when He stated:

“O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4)

Jesus was a devout Jew and an obedient follower of the Ten Commandments. Why would He publicly dishonor His mother in violation of the Fourth Commandment? Secondly, if this was such a “put down” by Jesus, why did He go ahead and perform the miracle of changing water into wine? Wouldn’t that have been the end of the request. Of course it would, unless He wasn’t putting Mary down. When His mother interceded on behalf of the couple, Our Lord decided that His time had now come. Don’t you think Jesus is trying to tell us something? Isn’t is probable that Jesus waited until Mary’s request, in order to show us her intercessory power? Doesn’t that explain why St. John listed her first among the guests?

3. Jesus Gave Mary To John From The Cross – As He suffered and died on the Cross, Jesus made a very profound statement:

When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26-27)

Why, while struggling to speak as He hung on the Cross, would Jesus have spoken these words if they didn’t mean anything? Could He have been making small talk? Obviously, there was a reason that Our Lord did what He did. The Church has always believed that John represented each member of the Church and that, from that moment on, Mary became our spiritual mother. Scripture tells us that, on that day John accepted Jesus’ gift and “took her to his own home” (John 19:27). Shouldn’t we do the same?

4. Jesus’ First Graces Were Given Through Mary – This is a fact that frequently gets overlooked by those who wish to downplay Mary’s importance…and it comes straight from the Bible! After accepting God’s offer to become the Mother of the Savior, Mary traveled “in haste” to visit her relative, Elizabeth.

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the child leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:41)

According to this Bible passage, before Jesus was even born, Mary’s voice was used to deliver the graces to Elizabeth. Why? Because she’s not important? Isn’t there some other way, these graces could have been dispensed?

Not convinced? Listen to what Elizabeth had to say (also directly from the Bible)…

“For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:44)

It’s pretty hard to deny the importance of Mary’s presence and voice in dispensing these graces to Elizabeth. Did the graces originate from Mary? No, they obviously came from Jesus. However, He chose to have Mary make the journey and use her voice to deliver them. Why? Because He wants us to realize that she is important!

5. Jesus Christ Is The Sole Mediator Between God And Man – Now, this doesn’t make sense. How does this help to support the Catholic position? This is why we Catholics “have it all wrong”, isn’t it? Sorry if I’m bursting anyone’s bubble, but Catholics absolutely believe that Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and man. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) clearly states this belief:

Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners. (CCC 2634)

This Catholic teaching is supported by the following Bible passage:

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all. (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

Although Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and man, that doesn’t preclude others (including Mary) from being involved in a subordinate mediation, or intercession. Saint Paul, who made the above statement, is obviously aware of that fact since he several times urges his readers to pray for each other (Romans 1:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:25, 1 Timothy 2:1). The Catechism refers to this type of intercession as being a “participation in the intercession of Christ” (CCC 2635) and is put into practice each time we pray for one another. Asking Mary to intercede for us in no way takes away from Jesus’ role as mediator between God and men.

While I’m not naive enough to think that listing these 5 facts will render me immune from further accusations of “Mary worship”, I do think that they will have an effect if looked at with an open mind. Sacred Scripture does not contain a lot of words about Mary, but what’s there is powerful. Theologians have spent 2,000 years studying her Biblical appearances and will continue to do so. We can learn much by studying Mary’s role as documented in the pages of the Bible. If anyone wants to accuse me of being a “Mary worshiper”, I ask you to first look at these 5 facts. If you still want to point a finger, you’ll need to ignore these factual statements…

because accepting them will seriously undermine your credibility!

Mary And The Eucharist

 

“If we wish to discover in all its richness the profound relationship between the Church and the Eucharist, we cannot neglect Mary, Mother and model of the Church…Mary can guide us toward this most holy sacrament because she herself has a profound relationship with it.” (Blessed Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia)

At the center of our Catholic Faith is the belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Unfortunately, we often lose sight of or don’t appreciate the profound blessing that we have been granted. If we desire to become better Catholics and improve our relationship with the Lord, we must deepen our love for the Eucharist. How can we do so? One of the best and most underutilized ways is to turn to the Mother of Jesus, Mary. By getting to know her and studying her life, we can grow closer to Our Lord who is fully present in the Eucharist. In his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Blessed Pope John Paul II devotes an entire chapter to Mary, “Woman of the Eucharist”. Let’s examine some of his thoughts on how Our Lady can help us better understand the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament
Sometimes referred to as Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Mary can take us by the hand and lead us to a closer relationship with the Eucharistic Christ. While observing that “at first glance”, the Gospel is silent on the subject of Mary and the Eucharist, the late Holy Father makes an interesting observation. We know that Mary was present with the apostles who prayed “with one accord” (Acts 1:14) for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it follows that Mary was most certainly present at the Eucharistic celebrations of the early Christians who were devoted to “the breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42). Blessed John Paul II then points to Mary’s interior disposition and observes that Mary is a “woman of the Eucharist” in her whole life.

A Mystery of Faith
Scripture tells us that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). The Eucharist is certainly a mystery of faith and cannot be grasped by our limited human understanding. Accepting Jesus’ command to “Do this in memory of me”, requires us to deny our senses and humbly submit to His instruction. What better advice can we be given than the words of Mary at the wedding feast of Cana when she stated, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5)? Just as He changed water into wine, He can turn ordinary bread and wine into His Body and Blood. By listening to Mary’s advice, we can accept (without fully understanding) the miracle that occurs on the altar and embrace Our Lord’s words, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54).

The Fiat and the Amen
By offering her womb for the Incarnation of God’s Word, Mary lived her Eucharistic faith even before the institution of the Eucharist. At the Annunciation, when Mary conceived the Son of God, she foreshadowed what happens to us when we receive Holy Communion. As a result, according to Blessed John Paul II, “there is a profound analogy between the Fiat which Mary said in reply to the angel, and the Amen which every believer says when receiving the Body of the Lord”. Although we sometimes forget the significance of our response to the words “The Body of Christ”, by replying “Amen” we are expressing our belief that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. Mary’s belief in the mystery of the Annunciation (“Blessed is she who believed”) anticipates the Church’s belief in the Eucharist.

Sacrifice
It is impossible to deny that there is a sacrificial dimension to the Eucharist. The Body and Blood of He whom we receive in this great sacrament was sacrificed for our redemption. Just as suffering was a major part of Our Lord’s life, it was a constant theme in the life of Mary. Beginning with Simeon’s crucifixion prophecy at the Lord’s Presentation (“a sword will pierce your soul”) and culminating with Our Lord’s death on the Cross, Mary had a very real share in the suffering of Christ. In this encyclical, the Holy Father made the following profound observation:

In her daily preparation for Calvary, Mary experienced a kind of “anticipated Eucharist” – one might say a “spiritual communion” – of desire and of oblation, which would culminate in her union with her Son in his passion, and then find expression after Easter by her partaking in the Eucharist which the Apostles celebrated as the memorial of that passion.

The Magnificat
According to Blessed Pope John Paul II, “in the Eucharist the Church is completely united to Christ and His sacrifice and makes her own the spirit of Mary. This truth can be understood more deeply by re-reading the Magnificat in a Eucharistic key”. He points out that when Mary proclaims “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”, she is praising God “through” Jesus (who is in her womb), “in” Jesus and “with” Jesus. This, he observes, is the true “Eucharistic attitude” and that “the Eucharist has been given to us so that our life, like that of Mary, may become completely a Magnificat”. Saint Louis de Montfort, who greatly inspired John Paul II, recommended that the Magnificat be recited after the reception of Holy Communion. In doing so, we unite our voice with that of Mary and allow our often weak faith to be infused by her perfect and unfailing faith!

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.

During this month devoted to Mary, why not take some time and meditate on her role as Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament? There is no better person to help us increase our appreciation for the Eucharist than the Mother of Our Lord. She knows Him better than any other human. Ask her to help you believe the “unbelievable”!

“Mary is present, with the Church and as the Mother of the Church, at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist. If the Church and the Eucharist are inseparably united, the same ought to be said of Mary and the Eucharist.” (Blessed Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia)

The Seven Sorrows Of Mary

 

On today’s episode of Following The Truth, I discussed the Seven Sorrows of Mary:

1. The Prophecy of Simeon
2. The Flight into Egypt .
3. The Loss of Jesus in the Temple
4. Mary meets Jesus Carrying the Cross
5. The Crucifixion
6. Mary Receives the Dead Body of Her Son
7. The Burial of Her Son and Closing of the Tomb.

Here is a link to the book that I mentioned:

Devotion To The Sorrowful Mother (TAN Books)

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 7 (Her Final Words)

 

As we conclude this series on Mary’s words in Scripture, her advice to the servants at Cana summarizes her faith and how she lived her life. After informing Jesus that “they have no wine”, Mary turned to the servants and uttered her last recorded words in the Bible:

“Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)

Throughout this study, we have listened to the Blessed Mother’s words as she teaches us how to better live our Christian faith:

“How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” (Luke 1:34)

Mary desired to learn more about God’s will for her life. When she didn’t understand what God wished of her, she asked questions. She wanted to please Him in all that she did.

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

The Blessed Mother willingly proclaimed herself to be the Lord’s servant. It didn’t matter what He wanted her to do. That was up to Him. Her only desire was to obey His will.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)

Although Mary was aware of her sinlessness, she knew that her goodness was due to God’s grace. Far from having a low self esteem, Our Lady gave glory to God for working through her.

“Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2:48)

Since Mary never sinned, only Divine intervention could allow her to experience what it was like to be separated from Jesus. As soon as that separation occurred, however, she began seeking Him with great anxiety. She understands the importance of urgently pursuing the Lord once we separate ourselves from His presence.

“They have no wine.” (John 2:3)

With great charity, Mary always looks out for the well being of others. As soon as she observes a problem, she immediately turns to her Son and allows Him to handle the situation in the best way possible.

“Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)

With total confidence that her Son will handle the shortage of wine at Cana, Mary leaves us with a powerful message. Jesus continues to speak through the teachings of His Church and in the pages of the Bible. Often times, we desire to follow our own will and to serve ourselves. That course of action directly contradicts Mary’s final recorded words in Scripture. If we want to achieve our eternal salvation, we must follow her advice to the letter. Whether we find it easy or difficult, we must always…

Do whatever He tells us!

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 6 (The Wedding At Cana)

 

“They have no wine.” (John 2:3)

As I continue with Part of 6 of my 7-part series on Mary’s words in Scripture, the scene shifts to the wedding at Cana. Previously we’ve been looking at Mary’s words as recorded by Saint Luke, but now we’ll focus on Saint John’s writing. When the wine ran out at the wedding, Mary’s four words leave us with a powerful message. More importantly, it was her words that led to Jesus performing His first miracle!

Do you really think Jesus needed to be told of the wine shortage? Since He was omniscient, wouldn’t He already know? There must be a reason that Mary is featured so prominently in this story. In fact, her prominence can be seen at the very start of this story. In what seems like an oddity, Mary is actually listed BEFORE Jesus in the list of guests!

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. (John 2:1-2)

St. John’s detail oriented nature leads us to believe that his ordering of guests is designed to call attention to Mary’s presence at the feast. He wants us to realize that she was present for a reason and that her actions and words are important. That said, why was she there and what could be the purpose of her pointing out the obvious?

An insight into the importance of Mary’s role can be derived by looking at the format of St. John’s Gospel. Immediately, one can observe a strong parallel with the Book of Genesis. Just as in Genesis, John’s Gospel starts with “in the beginning” (Jn 1:1). We then see a series of three “the next day’s” followed by the announcement of the wedding at Cana “on the 3rd day” (Jn 2:1). Some simple arithmetic allow us to deduce that the wedding feast took place on the seventh day, which calls to mind the end of the creation narrative referred to in the Book of Genesis. As our minds are focused on the first book of the Bible (most likely intentionally, as John didn’t include extraneous details), we can’t help but recall the story of the first woman (Eve) who led the first man (Adam) to sin by offering him the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:6). Interestingly enough, in the wedding at Cana, we see a strong parallel IN REVERSE! Unlike Eve, who led Adam to sin thus causing the gates of Heaven to be closed, we see Mary (sometimes referred to as the new Eve) leading Jesus (the new Adam) to perform His first miracle and inaugurate the NEW creation story. Jesus’ mission was to OPEN the gates of Heaven, previously locked by man’s disobedience. If the above parallels are not enough, the fact that Jesus called His mother “woman” (Jn 2:4), solidifies the comparison to Eve and the Book of Genesis.

Another thing that stands out is Mary’s awareness of the situation and her willingness to help. She was obviously paying attention to the happenings at the wedding and, by doing so, noticed the problem (quite possibly, even before the bride and groom). Once she saw that there was an issue, Mary didn’t try to solve it by herself or dispatch one of the disciples to obtain more wine. Instead, she went to Jesus and pointed out the problem. She didn’t demand anything, she didn’t give Him any extraneous details, she simply pointed out that the wine had run dry. In the same way, Mary is watching each of our lives and guess what happens when she notices a problem? You bet…she goes to her Son! In his only Marian encyclical, Blessed Pope John Paul II reflected on the importance of Mary’s role at Cana and in each of our lives:

At Cana in Galilee there is shown only one concrete aspect of human need, apparently a small one of little importance (“They have no wine”). But it has a symbolic value: this coming to the aid of human needs means, at the same time, bringing those needs within the radius of Christ’s messianic mission and salvific power. Thus there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself “in the middle,” that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind, and in fact, she “has the right” to do so. Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary “intercedes” for mankind. (Blessed Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater)

Next week I’ll look at Mary’s final words in Sacred Scripture, “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5).

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 5 (Losing Jesus)

 

Mary: “Where’s Jesus?”
Joseph: “I thought He was with you.”
Mary: “No, I thought He was with you.”
Joseph: “Well, He has to be around here somewhere, so let’s look.”
(Mother Angelica,  Mother Angelica’s Private and Pithy Lessons From the Scriptures)

This humorous snippet of fictitious dialog reminds us that, despite being the parents of the Messiah, Mary and Joseph weren’t given a pass from the worries and difficulties faced by all parents.  When we look at the story of the Finding in the Temple, we can almost feel the helplessness experienced by Mary and Joseph.  Despite being chosen for a monumentally important role, they didn’t have all the answers.  In her discussion of this incident, Mother Angelica notes a very important point about Mary, “She was sinless, but she wasn’t Mrs. Omnipotent”.

Continuing our series on Mary’s words in the Bible, let’s look at one of the most confusing, yet most familiar, of Our Lady’s statements.  After looking for Jesus for three days, Mary and Joseph found Him teaching in the temple.  Scripture tells us that they were “astonished” and records the words spoken by our Blessed Mother:

“Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2:48)

Sometimes we forget just how human Mary was.  Although she never sinned, she wasn’t blessed with the gift of omniscience.  On several occasions, the Bible tells us that Our Lady “pondered things in her heart”.  In other words, just like us, she often had to meditate in order to discern the Lord’s message.  Being the Mother of God didn’t exempt Mary from struggling to determine God’s will.  Rather than lash out or complain, Mary asked a simple question to Her Son…Why have you done this to us?  She was trying to obtain an answer, most likely fearing that she and Joseph had done something wrong.  The second part of her statement also communicates an important piece of information.  Mary and Joseph were searching for Jesus with great anxiety.

There are many ways that we can “lose” the presence of the Lord.  Although He will never leave us, we can use our free will to turn away from Him.  Those of us who have done this know the feeling of emptiness and hopelessness that accompanies our disobedience.  In his book The Glories Of Mary, Saint Alphonsus Liguori wrote, “Souls who have lost God are really miserable and unhappy.  If Mary wept over the loss of her son for three days, how much more should sinners weep who have lost sanctifying grace?” Since Mary had never sinned, she didn’t know what it was like to lose God.  It’s quite possible that the Lord wanted Mary to experience this sense of loss so that she could be a better advocate for those who stray.  This experience of losing Him, the only way possible for one who never sinned, will help her to empathize with those who are lost and enable her to truly become the Refuge of Sinners.

After losing Jesus, Mary and Joseph searched for Him with great anxiety.  How do we respond when we “lose” Him in our own lives?  Is finding the Lord our number one priority?  Sadly, it is often not a priority at all.  According to Saint Augustine, “When they lose an ox they do not hesitate to go and look for it; when they lose a sheep, they leave no stone unturned to find it; when they lose a beast of burden, they cannot rest until they have discovered it; but when they lose God, who is the supreme Good, they eat, drink, and sleep as usual”.

As we meditate upon this sad episode in Our Lady’s life, let’s never forget that she knows what it’s like to be separated from Jesus and can help us to discover Him in our own lives.  Holy Mary, Refuge of Sinners, pray for us.

“There is no sinner in the world, however much at enmity with God, who cannot recover God’s grace by recourse to Mary, and by asking her assistance.” (Saint Bridget of Sweden)

 

 

 

 

 

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 4 (The Magnificat)

 

As we continue our look at Mary’s words in the Bible, the scene shifts from Mary’s encounter with Gabriel (the Annunciation) and moves to her visit with Elizabeth (the Visitation).  After traveling in haste to be with her pregnant relative, Mary is greeted with the words:

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:42-45)

Mary, in turn, responds with the great prayer that we’ve come to know as the Magnificat:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”(Luke 1:46-55)

By listening to Mary’s words and studying this visit with Elizabeth, we see a concise overview of our Blessed Mother’s virtues.  Let’s examine some of them:

1. Mary’s Humility – The humility of the Blessed Mother can be seen in her response to Elizabeth’s words of praise.  Instead of accepting the compliments and taking full credit for her “being blessed”, Mary instead praises the Lord.  She knows that God is the source of her goodness.  That is TRUE humility!

2. Mary’s Gratitude – The words of Mary’s prayer illustrate her gratitude to Almighty God.  Beginning with the initial proclamation of joy for her salvation (Mary needed a savior, but as written by Pope Pius IX in Ineffabilis Deus, she was saved “by a unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Christ”), we see someone who is very grateful for God’s unmerited gift.  Basing her remaining words on the Song of Hannah (1 Sam 2:1-10) and other Old Testament passages, Mary uses her knowledge of Scripture to express a deep appreciation for the Lord’s benevolence.

3. Mary’s Love For Her Neighbor – As soon as Mary discovered that Elizabeth was pregnant, she went “with haste” (Lk 1:39) to visit her.  Not worrying about the inconvenience that goes along with being pregnant and traveling to the hill country, Mary put the needs of Elizabeth ahead of her own comfort.  As a further example of her concern for the well being of others, Mary stayed with her elderly relative for 3 months (Lk 1:56) before returning home.  When one considers what was going on in her own life, Mary’s actions provide us with a tremendous example of what it means to “love thy neighbor” without counting the cost.

4. Mary’s Faith –  Giving us further scriptural proof that Mary embraced and believed the incredulous words of Gabriel, Elizabeth proclaimed “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45)  In his book The Glories Of Mary, Saint Alphonsus Liguori stated that “it was as a tribute to her faith that Elizabeth called Our Lady blessed.”  Mary trusted fully in God and did whatever He asked, thus giving credibility to her words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord”!

5. Mary’s Obedience –  Although some people are disturbed by the term “fear of the Lord”, Mary understands the true meaning of the concept.  When she states “His mercy is from age to age to those who fear Him”, the Blessed Mother acknowledges the importance of obeying God’s commandments as an expression of love! Those who truly love the Lord have a fear of being separated from Him or letting Him down.  That desire to please Him results in obedience.  According to Archbishop Fulton Sheen, obedience “springs from the love of an order and of Him who gave it…Obedience is servility only to those who have not understood the spontaneity of love.” (The World’s First Love)  Mary reminds us that we should obey the Lord because we love Him and don’t want to disappoint Him!

As we read through the words of Mary’s Magnificat, we see a heartfelt profession of faith from someone who was grateful for God’s mercy and providence in her life.  Too often, we take the Lord’s mercy for granted and don’t trust in His providence.  May our Blessed Mother intercede for us and help us to love God with all our hearts and truly “rejoice in Jesus Christ, Our Savior”!

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 3 (Submission)

 

As we continue with Part 3 of a 7-Part series on Mary’s words in Scripture, I’ll be taking a look at the final words of the Blessed Mother to the angel Gabriel.  Last time we focused on Mary’s declaration that she is the Lord’s handmaid (servant).  Essentially, Mary informed Gabriel that she considers herself to be the Lord’s servant.  Furthermore, as a sign that she fully accepts her mission to bring the Savior into the world, Mary adds the words:

“May it be done to me according to your word. ” (Luke 1:38)

A recap of the facts helps to illustrate the profundity of Mary’s statement.  She has just been informed that:

1. She will become the mother of the Son of God while being able to retain her virginity.

2. The virgin pregnancy and birth will come about through the action of the Holy Spirit.

3. Elizabeth (her elderly relative) is now six months pregnant.

4. All of this will happen because “nothing will be impossible for God”.

After hearing the details, most of us would have many more questions and would be begging the angel to stick around.  Mary, on the other hand, heard all that she needed to hear.  In fact, Gabriel’s final statement surely wasn’t news to Mary at all.  To someone with a strong faith, a belief that God can do all things is implied.  Contrasting Mary’s faith with my own faith is painful, but enlightening.  Hardly a day goes by when I don’t question the Lord’s ability to resolve some crisis in my life.  Although the angel’s words are right there in Scripture and they are etched in my memory, I need to get better at believing them.  As long as I’m comparing Mary with myself, there’s another really big difference. Mary didn’t even flinch at the fact that her pregnancy is going to be really difficult to explain to Joseph, her family and to just about all of her other relatives and friends.  That’s because she loved God with all of her heart and TRULY was His servant.  The fact that she was going to be inconvenienced didn’t matter to her.  She meant what she just said about being the Lord’s handmaid.  If He wanted her to do something, she would do it with no questions asked.  Is anyone else feeling really inadequate right now?

Each day, you and I are given the opportunity to say “yes” to God.  Like Mary, we are often asked to submit to His will without knowing all of the details.  Whether it’s being open to having additional children, pursuing a religious vocation or contributing more to charitable causes, the Lord often requests our consent.  Are we so concerned about the details or potential difficulties that we say “no thanks”?  Or, like the Blessed Mother, do we declare ourselves to be the Lord’s servants, trusting in His providence?

While discerning God’s will often requires prayer and meditation, sometimes it’s A LOT easier to discover.  By simply accepting those things that happen to us on a daily basis (at our jobs, in our families, when we become ill), we are saying “yes” to God and following His will.  When asked how to determine God’s will, Mother Angelica replied, “Honey, if it’s happening, it’s God’s will; and you have to correspond with it in the present moment”.  When unpleasant or painful events occur in our lives, we can complain or we can echo the words of Our Blessed Mother…

“May it be done to me according to your word. ”

“Mary was like a wheel which was easily turned by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Her only object in the world was to keep her eyes constantly fixed on God, to learn His will, and then to perform it.” (St. Bernardine of Siena)

Next Time: The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 2 (Humility)

 

As we continue with Part 2 of a 7 Part series on Mary’s words in Scripture, I’ll be taking a look at a powerful statement made by Mary to the angel Gabriel.  Last time we focused on Mary’s question to the angel after learning that she had been chosen to be the mother of the Savior.  Having made a vow of virginity, Mary was confused as to how God’s will could be fulfilled.  She didn’t doubt that it could happen (unlike Zechariah, who flat out didn’t believe that his wife could become pregnant), she just wanted to know how it would happen so that she wouldn’t have to break her prior vow of virginity.  Mary sought to understand God’s will.  Gabriel answered her question by explaining that it would come about by the power of the Holy Spirit.  He also informed her that her elderly relative, Elizabeth, is now sixth months pregnant.  Then Gabriel gave Mary a great takeaway from their dialog when he stated that “nothing will be impossible for God” (Luke 1:37). Mary’s response to all of this news?

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38)

Because many of us are very familiar with Mary’s statement, we run the risk of overlooking how profound it actually is.  These eight words give us a great insight into Mary’s view of herself.  In this statement, she is saying to God, “I am your humble servant, use me in any way that you wish”.  Unlike many of us, she fully understood that she was merely a creature and that the Lord was her Master.  According to the dictionary, a handmaid is “a servant who serves a useful, but subordinate purpose”.  When Mary refers to herself as a “handmaid”, she is professing her humility.  Despite just having been told that she will be the vessel used to deliver the Savior to the world, Mary referred to herself as a servant.  This profession gives us a glimpse into Mary’s interior attitude and provides an example that is worthy of our emulation.  In his book “The Glories Of Mary”, St. Alphonsus Liguori stated that the first effect of humility is a lowly opinion of oneself.  Even though Mary was aware of her sinlessness, she understood that it was all due to God’s grace.  How important is humility?  St. Bernard of Clairvaux observed that “humility is the foundation and guardian of the virtues”.  More importantly, Jesus instructed us to “learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29).

Without humility, it is impossible for us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Unfortunately, humility is also one of the most difficult virtues to acquire.  As evidence, look at how many times we question events that occur in our lives.  Why is God allowing this to happen to me?  We pray “Thy Will be done” and, at the same time, provide the Lord with a list of acceptable answers to our prayers.  Some even go as far as to disobey teachings of the Church because “they don’t agree with them.”  These positions are all incompatible with the virtue of humility and illustrate a serious misunderstanding of who’s the Creator and who’s the creature!  Although it can be a struggle, we can become more humble by asking for the Lord’s help through Mary’s intercession.  After all, who better to ask then someone who viewed herself as nothing more than the Lord’s servant?

“If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is still humility.  Not that there are no other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts are fruitless.” (St. Augustine)

Next Time: “May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

Listening To Mary’s Voice: Confusion

 

We have been blessed with several Church-approved apparitions of the Blessed Mother throughout the years.  In each of these appearances, Mary has urged repentance and the importance of following Christ’s commands.  As we struggle to lead holy lives, wouldn’t it be nice if Mary could speak to us and give us the necessary encouragement to keep on the right path?  Fortunately, that is entirely possible and it can happen TODAY!  By opening up our Bibles, we can hear the Blessed Mother speak directly to us and help us to grow closer to her Son, Jesus.  Although Mary only spoke on four occasions in Sacred Scripture, each of her statements provides a wealth of information.  By meditating on her words TO EACH OF US, we can become more like her and grow closer to the Lord.  In this, the first of a seven-part series, we’ll be looking at her first recorded words in Scripture…

“How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” (Luke 1:34)

After being told by the angel Gabriel that she has been chosen to be the Mother of the Savior, Mary is confused and asks a simple question.  Given the fact that she (like us) is not divine, there are times when she had questions about God’s will.  Even though she was sinless, Mary didn’t have all of the answers.  We see evidence of this a few verses earlier when (upon Gabriel’s arrival) she “pondered what sort of greeting this might be” (Lk 1:29).  The common belief of theologians throughout the years is that Mary was confused because she had consecrated her virginity to the Lord.  Although not the norm for married people, this practice was not unheard of in Mary’s time.  Always desiring to do what’s right, the sinless virgin proceeded on the course she thought was best…and then the angel appeared with some new information.

How many times are we confused about what God wants us to do?  We struggle to discern His will for our lives and we have questions.  We may feel the urge to take a more fulfilling job, but don’t know how we’ll survive on less pay.  We may feel the call to the priesthood or religious life, but are fearful of giving up the possibility of marriage and children.  We get the idea that maybe we should volunteer and help people, but we don’t know how.  As my own life illustrates, when the Lord calls us to do something, He doesn’t provide all of the details up front.

In addition to those instances requiring us to make a decision, sometimes we aren’t given a choice.  Rather, we are faced with an unexpected illness, devastating personal problems or financial difficulties.  Although these situations occur without our consent, we still may question why they are happening.  How will I survive?  What will I do?  Why is God letting this happen?

Mary’s words to the angel remind us that it’s OK to ask questions.  If you feel that God is asking you to do something, but you’re not sure how it’s possible, go ahead and ask Him for details.  Mary did.  If you’re carrying a heavy cross and can’t understand why, ask the Lord to enlighten you.  Unfortunately, I can’t promise that you’ll get the answer you want.  Instead, the Lord’s answer may be, “trust me”.  If that’s the case, you may be asked (like Mary) to go along with His plan without knowing all of the fine details.  If you have a difficult time doing that…join the club!  However, don’t ever forget that Mary can help you tremendously.  As someone who’s “been there, done that”, she knows exactly what you’re going through.  Turn to her and ask her to share some of her faith with you.  I can guarantee you that, as stated in the Memorare, “never was it known that anyone who fled to her protection, implored her help, or sought her intercession was left unaided.”

Next Time: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.” (Luke 1:38)