I pulled out my Rosary beads to pray during a plane flight some years ago. The passenger next to me asked me that all too familiar question, “Why do you still pray to Mary? Why all these Rosaries and devotion to Mary?” Off course, I had many reasons for my devotion to Mary but the reason that came out of my mouth that day could only be the voice of the Spirit of Jesus. I replied, “I depend on and I pray to Mary because I want to imitate and be like Jesus.”
What? Did Jesus pray to Mary? Off course not. Then why does praying to Mary make us imitate and be like Jesus?
Everything that Jesus Christ said, did and endured in His humanity and still does today are essentially acts of deepest love for His Father. In Jesus Christ, we find the prime and perfect model of love for the Father and for others. Every act of Jesus was also an act of loving obedience of His Father, “I came down from heaven not to do my will but the will of the One who sent me.”(Jn 6:38) It is out of this loving obedience to His Father’s will that Jesus freely chose to depend on Mary as His beloved Mother, “He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them.”(Lk 2:51) Hence we cannot separate the Most Blessed Virgin Mary from Jesus’ act of loving obedience to the Father for our salvation.
St. Paul says to the Philippians in today’s Second Reading, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory.” It is not just enough to do the good but we must have a right inner disposition that does not seek gain for self. We must do it all out of love for God by imitating the attitude of Jesus Christ, “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus.”
We cannot speak of any of these elements of Jesus’ attitude of loving obedience without bringing in His loving relationship with Mary and His dependence on her. If we are going to imitate Jesus’ attitude, we must reflect on how these His attitudes were present through, in and with Mary.
In the divine plan, it is in and through Mary that Jesus “who was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped at.” In Mary’s womb, Jesus Christ did not hold on to His divine status but grasped the humanity willed by His Father. Mary responded by holding on only to what God offers to her and nothing more, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” It is also in our life of devotion to Mary that we die to our status in this world so as to embrace only what God wills for us and let go of all others.
It was in the womb of Mary that Jesus Christ freely “emptied Himself.” To “empty self” is to live with an attitude that says, “It is really not about me.” Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, chose the way of loving dependence on Mary to empty Himself. Can we claim to be wiser and choose another path? We also begin to die to self when we enter into this life of dependence on Mary. Mary will teach us how to act like she did and let go of our own plans, timetables, and agendas in life so as to embrace God’s own plan for us. In Mary’s spiritual womb, we do not get discouraged with our spiritual lives because it is really not about us.
It was with and in the womb of Mary that Jesus Christ “took on the form of a slave, coming in human likeness and found human in appearance.” Slave denotes utter submission and dependence and lack of any rights at all. Jesus chose to be a slave of love in Mary and Mary responded by choosing in love to be His slave too. We cannot obey God when we are too focused on what is our rights or we are slaves of this world or public opinions. With and through Mary we begin to put aside our own rights for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of souls.
It was in the womb of Mary that Jesus “humbled Himself.” Jesus’ first act of humble obedience was to choose to be conceived in the chaste womb of Mary. He would depend on Mary for every nourishment and movement. He will depend on Mary to clothe Him, present Him in the temple and to lead Him to safety in Egypt when Herod wanted to kill Him. We begin to put our pride to death by depending on this awesome creature of God called Mary just like Jesus did.
It was in the womb of Mary that Jesus began His attitude of being “obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” Speaking of the immaculate body that He received from Mary, Jesus would say, “A body you have prepared for me…I come to do your will, O God.”(Heb 10:5) It is also with Mary that Jesus would consummate His own act of loving obedience of the Father when He gave His life for us on the Cross as Mary united herself inseparably from Him and His sacrifice. She saw Jesus bend His knees in loving obedience from the moment of His conception in her womb to His interment in the tomb. She can surely help us to obey God out of love for Him and wait patiently for God to act in our lives.
St. Paul reminds us that Jesus’ loving obedience of the Father did not leave Him disappointed. The Father “greatly exalted Him and gave Him the name above other names so that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” Jesus has bent His knees in loving obedience and He was not disappointed. Part of His reward is that, since He has bent His own knees in love, we too will not be disappointed if we bend our knees in loving obedience.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we live in an age when we find it difficult to obey God in our daily lives. Obeying God does not guarantee us good feeling. We do not have visible rewards always for our obedience. We may even face mockery from others for our obedience. Then we are tempted to make those deadly excuses for our disobedience like, “What can I do? Everyone is doing it.” “My disobedience cannot be that bad. God will understand. Isn’t God merciful?”
Even when we choose to obey, we easily say Yes to God one moment and No the next moment. Like the two sons in today’s Gospel parable, we can be inconsistent in our live with God. Our words do not always match our actions. We begin our life-long commitments to marriage, priesthood or religious life with a fervor that only wears off with time as we begin to slowly take back the Yes we said to God. It is in Mary that we find today a guide and help to pronounce our own Fiat and to be faithful to it till the very end out of pure love for God.
As we encounter Christ today, it is in Him that we find that obedience that comes from knowing that we are loved by God just as we are and we respond to the love of the Father by acts of obedience. Jesus’ life of loving obedience on this earth began in, with, and through Mary; it continued with Mary and ended with Mary at the Cross. If we choose to imitate Jesus today by loving and depending on Mary as our Mother too, we will obey God always with love like Jesus did and we too will never be disappointed.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!