Mary is surest guide for leading us to Jesus

NienstedtBlAt 8 a.m. on the morning of March 14, 2013, a single unmarked car — a Volkswagen, not a Mercedes — slipped out of the Vatican and drove across town to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, one of the most beautiful churches in the world, dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God.

In that vehicle rode Pope Francis, who had been elected to the throne of St. Peter the very day before. He had come to this shrine to place a bouquet of flowers and to say a prayer before one of the most ancient icons of Mary, entitled “Salus Populi Romani,” the Protectress of the Roman People. It is said that the icon had been written by St. Luke himself while Mary was still alive. Tradition also holds that while St. Luke painted, the Mother of Jesus spoke about the life of her son, which the evangelist later recorded in his Gospel.

In making this visit the first priority of his pontificate, Pope Francis was declaring his deep and personal love for the Blessed Mother, who is the surest guide for leading one to Jesus. Surely, Pope Francis was saying by this symbolic act that he was placing all of his trust, all of his ministry under the protection of this powerful patroness. A few months later, in October 2013, the Holy Father articulated the confidence he has in the Madonna:

“Mary points to Jesus. She asks us to bear witness to Jesus. She constantly guides us to her Son, Jesus, because in him alone do we find salvation. He alone can change the water of our loneliness, difficulties and sin into the wine of encounter, joy and forgiveness. He alone.”

Now it is not surprising that a pope — any pope — would have a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother, but this pope’s affection for her seems very personal and very intense. And that is a helpful witness to us, especially during this month of May, traditionally dedicated as Mary’s month.

Providentially, this year’s priestly ordination will fall on the feast of the Visitation. In preparing my homily for that occasion, I learned that there is a vital connection between this feast and that of the Annunciation.

When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he communicated not one but two revelations: first and foremost that Mary was to be the mother of the Messiah and, secondly, that her elderly and until then barren cousin, Elizabeth, was six months pregnant. This latter news provides a kind of divine hint to Mary that she should make the four-day trip from Galilee to Ein Karem to not only assist Elizabeth, but to share her own good news with her cousin.

But no sooner does Mary greet her cousin than Elizabeth, prompted by the Holy Spirit, has a vision of her own, calling Mary the “Mother of my Lord” and praising her for her great faith in God. Indeed, the very child in Elizabeth’s womb, St. John the Baptist, senses the proximity of the God-man and immediately becomes his herald while not yet even born.

With this encounter, Mary, then, begins the mission she is to have in God’s plan for salvation by giving public praise to God in her beautiful Magnificat. Her words, an echo of the words of the holy woman Hannah whose own hymn of praise is recorded in the First Book of Samuel, summarize the hope-filled desire of the chosen people for the fulfillment of a promised Messiah, now come true.

Here on the lips of that anointed’s Mother are found the first ringing endorsement for the Gospel of the poor. While recognizing her own lowliness, Mary gives the credit of her blessedness to God, her Savior. In her hymn, she describes the wonderful world of grace as the Kingdom of God’s love, overturning the logic of this present world with the logic of God’s love and mercy. Every night at Evening Prayer, the Church repeats Mary’s words of praise, asking us to make them our own.

In the blessed encounter between Mary and Elizabeth, we discover the role of the Blessed Virgin as bearing Christ to the world. But as baptized believers, we, too, share in that noble vocation, and we, too, are bound to bringing Christ to others, giving birth to him by lives of compassion, service, and witness. Let us ask Mary’s intercession that we might do so as faithfully in our world as she did in hers.

God love you!

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Category: Only Jesus

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