“Do not be afraid to take Mary into your home.”
When a Filipina mother asked her daughter to pray for her own special intention, the little girl replied, “Mommy, I will pray to Our Lady of No Classes for you. She never fails to answer my prayers.” The surprised mother later on learnt that whenever her daughter did not want to go to school, she will pray to Mother Mary under the title Our Lady of No Classes asking for the classes to get cancelled. Apparently Our Lady of No Classes never failed this little girl’s requests and arranged things such that classes were canceled for one reason for another. On hearing this mother’s story, I made a mental note to add the title Our Lady of No Classes to my Litany of Loreto!
“Our Mother Mary never fails.” Is this just a pious statement or is it for real? How many of us can confidently say this with the childlike confidence that this little girl shows in Mother Mary’s powerful presence and intercession? Indeed Mary never fails for three main reasons.
God created and equipped her to be faithful to Him and to us in the sense that she is to be the channel through which God comes to us and the way in which we are brought into fidelity to the divine will. Jesus once said, “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour the new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”(Mt 9:17) The ability of the human soul to receive and preserve the grace of God depends in a large part on the openness of the soul to allow this grace to transform it completely. A soul that is stuck in its old ways of thinking and acting and closed to being transformed cannot expect to receive transforming grace because, in the long run, this grace may even prove detrimental to such a soul.
In order for Mary to faithfully bear Jesus Christ, the Author of the new wine of grace, she had to be made a uniquely new creature. God granted her this radically new creaturely existence by preserving her from the stains of original sin which affected us all. By being immaculately conceived, Mary is thus equipped and prepared for being faithful to both God and all the redeemed mankind. She alone can receive all the graces that God wishes to offer all of mankind in Jesus Christ, correspond perfectly with this graces received, preserve and communicate these graces intact and completely to her children. Indeed, she has been created and designed by God for faithfulness.
Secondly, Mary was indeed faithful to God and faithful to us. God fulfills all His promises to us in and through Jesus Christ and thus makes our own response to Him possible through Jesus Christ. In the words of St. Paul, “For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in Him (Jesus); therefore the Amen from us also goes through Him to God for glory.” (2Cor 1:20) All God’s promises to us were fulfilled when the Word became flesh through the words of consent of the Virgin Mary at the moment of the Annunciation, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it be done to me according to your word.” God’s Yes to mankind echoed perfectly in the heart of Mary when she gave her loving consent. In giving to God her own sinless humanity so that the Word could become man like us, Mary proved faithful to God and to us her children because now we all “have redemption in His (Jesus’) blood, the forgiveness of sins in accord with the riches of His grace that He ravished upon us.” (Eph 1:7-8) St. Paul reminds his Roman audience that “through Christ Jesus we have received the grace of apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith.” Mary never failed God in bringing His Son to us and she will never fail us when it comes to our having the sufficient grace needed to fulfill the will of God as His apostles.
Thirdly, God rewards our faithfulness by giving us greater responsibility to further manifest our faithfulness to Him before others. “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.” (Lk 16:10) The greatest thing that ever happened in this world is the Incarnation, God becoming man through the consent of the Virgin Mary. If Mary is indeed faithful in this important and most crucial event of human history, how can we ever doubt her faithfulness in anything else? Mary was faithful in the Incarnation and she is surely faithful to God and to her children in all other things.
The master in the Parable about the talents rewards the faithful servants by giving them greater responsibilities, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.”(Mt 25:21) Similarly, Mary has been rewarded for her faithfulness to God and to us her children by receiving much greater responsibilities of continuously bringing us graces and drawing us into ever deeper communion with God and imbuing in us fidelity to His will.
Sunday’s Gospel shows St. Joseph disturbed about Mary’s pregnancy. The angel said to him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” It is through Mary that St. Joseph will be brought into God’s saving plan and find the grace to faithfully fulfill this mysterious will. Mary’s divine reward for her faithfulness to God at the Annunciation was to bring all God’s children into this same fidelity to God’s plan, beginning with her spouse St. Joseph. She received another reward of greater responsibility when the dying Jesus said to her about St. John, “Behold your Son.” We are all also to behold her as our Mother like John did because she has been created and equipped for faithfulness, she remained faithful to God and to us her children and she now has the great responsibility of bringing us closer to God until we achieve the perfect union of heaven.
The Advent Season is a time of waiting for the Word made flesh to come and bring us into communion with God and the divine will. It is also a time that we look forward to Christ’s glorious return at the end of time. Doesn’t this make our life here on earth a continuous waiting? How easy it is to lose this necessary vigilance and to get distracted from this goal? How easy it is to lose courage and patience? How easy it is to live as if we belonged to this passing world? How easy it is to wonder if we are loved by God in the midst of the sufferings of this life? But if we choose to wait with Mary all the days of our life, she will open our eyes to recognize Emmanuel, God with us at each moment, and she will grant us to the grace to respond to His holy will in all things.
Newly ordained Bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Bishop Andrew Cozzzens, reminded me of how much we priests need to bring Mary into our hearts and depend on her as our Mother. He sensed his installation as a bishop as a call for him to give himself more fully to God. He looks to Mary for guidance because, in his words, “I understood through her what it means to be loved as a son is loved by his mother and that compassionate mercy is a beautiful expression of the compassionate mercy of our loving Father.” On the day of his Episcopal ordination, he renewed his total consecration to Jesus through Mary as taught by St Louis de Montfort. Speaking of his praying to Mary for guidance, he said, “My prayer is: ‘Mary, don’t let go of my hand,’ and I sense that she’s not going to,” he said. “She’s going to keep holding my hand as I try to follow Jesus as a bishop.” Surely Mary will not fail this bishop son of hers who has confidence that she will keep holding his hands as he seeks to follow Jesus.
In my experience with Mary, I have begged for some things in prayer and did not receive them. For sure, she has not yet answered my prayers to have any of my classes cancelled. But I am not giving up on that one! However, persevering in trustful prayer to Mary gives me a deep sense that I am never alone and that God is with me and that I have no need to worry. Praying to her also increases the desire and strength to imitate her complete surrender to God’s mysterious will wherever this may lead and whatever it may cost. Ironically, I never remembered praying for a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. I never even thought it possible. But it is through Mary that I sensed this awesome gift and divine vocation, with her I have embraced this vocation and with her I have sure hope to persevere to the very end as I await the glorious return of Jesus.
Indeed, we have a mother whom God has made and equipped to be faithful to Him and to us her children, who never failed Him and her children and who has the added responsibility of being faithful to us till the end of time. We must not be afraid to bring her into our lives to aid us in fulfilling the mysterious will of the Father. Let us cherish, love and depend on her as she deserves and will surely know that she will never and can never fail us.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!
image: detail of mosaic from S. Maria Trastevere, Rome/Shutterstock