For us as Catholics, it is not enough to have a sentimental outlook to Mary. We must know and understand why she is important on our journey towards salvation's destiny. Jesus certainly knew she was important because he left it for the last moment of his life to say to us behold your mother. In his dying breath he said on the cross at Calvary, "Woman behold your son." Then to the disciples Jesus loved, he said "behold your mother." Whenever someone says something in their dying breath, it is because what they have just said is important. The same holds true here for Jesus when his dying breath he gives us to his mother and his mother to us.
So why is this so important? This is a question that we all must know and understand: why is mother Mary important to us in our Christian journey. Mother Mary is important to us because as a human race, we have a problem, a very serious one at that. The problem is that we do not take on God; even in the best of us, we constantly disobeyed God - or as the young people will say, we 'dis' God. Our salvation is not enough that God loves us. It is not enough that Jesus died on the cross for us. We are free and therefore we must respond positively to God's love made visible to us through Jesus Christ his Son in order for His plan of salvation to be complete. Therein lies the problem. Therein lies the big problem of the human race. It is in our response, or lack thereof, to the extreme love that God has shown to us. So God comes to us through Christ Jesus his Son, and we in turn must make a response, a positive response, and go to him.
Acts chapter 2 verse 37 emphasizes our need for response. This was when Peter addressed the crowd at the very first Pentecost. And it says, "Hearing this, they will cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, 'What must we do brothers?' Peter answered, 'Every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
In Romans Chapter 7 versus 14 to 25, St. Paul speaks very humbly of the inner struggles that he experiences in trying to live a life in Christ Jesus. At the end of that passage he says, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" St. Paul laments that he tries to live a life that is pleasing to God so that God's grace to him will not be in vain.
This is the crux of the matter; if we do not respond to God's love and his mercy, then it could all be in vain. St. Paul in his letter to the Hebrews speaks about this in Hebrews chapter 4 verses 2 to 3 that says, "we received the good news exactly as they did; but hearing the message did them no good because they did not share the faith of those who listened. We, however, who have faith, shall reach a place of rest, ....
Because we are free, salvation is not complete until we respond. For this reason some of the saddest moments in the Gospel are when Jesus speaks of a lack of response. For instance in Matthew chapter 23 verse 37, Jesus cries over Jerusalem because they did not respond to his presence.
In the Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 7 versus 29 to 30 says, "all the people who heard him, and the tax collectors too, acknowledged God's plan by accepting baptism from John; but by refusing baptism from him the Pharisees and their lawyers had thwarted what God had in mind for them." This passage clearly says that we can spoil God's plan for us by not being obedient to him. On the other hand, the people in Luke Chapter 3 versus 8 to 14 understood the need for response. They understood that when God comes to us something must change, and that change must take place in us. The whole theme of repentance is a theme of response to God's mercy and his love. When Jesus said if you repent, he is saying that our response is always free, and that we can choose not to repent and to continue to live in sin, or we can choose to repent and accept his mercy.
The reality of the matter is that with all good intentions, we find it hard to really respond to God as we should. We are sluggish in responding to his grace. Many of us spend our lives procrastinating our response to God's love. We make all sorts of futuristic promises. For instance, tomorrow I will give up gossiping or I will give up smoking at the end of this week, or from tomorrow I will pull my weight in my family and be more responsible at my job. Promises, promises. And in many instances that is all that they are; empty promises.
Jesus had some very strong words to say to those who put off their response to him. In Luke Chapter 12 versus 16 to 21, the Bible says, "Then he told them a parable: 'there was once a rich young man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, "what am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops. "Then he said, "this is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: my soul, you have plenty of things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time. "But God said to him, "Fool! This very night demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose would it be then?
In this passage we see Jesus using very very strong words against those who procrastinate about their response to the call of Christ and to the call to discipleship. He says and I quote, "FOOL! This very night demand will be made for your soul and this hoard of yours, whose would it be then? You see many of us live our lives as if we are in control of tomorrow when in truth and in fact we are not. Many of us put off doing the right thing until tomorrow and for many this never comes. The only one who knows what tomorrow will bring is God himself. All the more reason why we ought to place all of our hope at all our trust in him. More so why it makes perfect sense to heed to his call to discipleship.
In the Gospel of St. Luke, he speaks of salvation as a wedding banquet to which God invites all of us, and leaves it up to each of us to decide whether we want to come or not. The emphasis here is on the word "invites". As we all know, an invitation can be accepted or it can be rejected. So Jesus in this parable in Luke Chapter 14 from verses 15 to 21, is saying very clearly that the call to discipleship, that the call to that great banquet, that the call to citizenship of the kingdom of heaven is one that we can accept or reject. In that passage we see all of the procrastinations and excuses that the people made. From verse 17 it says, "when the time for the banquet came, he sent his servants to say to those who had been invited, "Come along: everything is ready now". But all alike started to make excuses. The first said, "I have bought a piece of land and must go and see about it. Please accept my apologies. Another said I have bought five yoke of oxen and I am on my way to try them out. Please accept my apologies. Yet another said, I have just gotten married and I am unable to come." So what is your excuse? Is it the job or is it the family? Is it hanging out with the boys or the girls? What is your excuse for not accepting the call to follow Jesus Christ?
The plan of salvation requires our response because it is a plan of love and hence one of freedom. True love does not imprison. True love liberates. True love sets us free. God is love and therefore God's love is free and he does not force us to follow him or to accept his will. But make no mistake about it dear brothers and sisters, every decision we make has consequences attached to it. If we keep in mind that this life that we live is not permanent, but it meant to be the birthing place of something greater, oh so much greater, then it will become easy for us to know what choices we ought to make.
It was when Jesus was dying, he told us that Mary is our mother. It was in his dying breath that he said to us to make room in our hearts for Mary. It was when he was at his last that he emphasized to us as a race and not just to John at the foot of the cross, that we need mother Mary in our lives as our mother to guide us and show us how to respond favourably and with generosity to God's invitation to discipleship and to his invitation to be citizens of the Kingdom of God. Mary is important to us precisely because she helps us to respond as we should - John chapter 19 verses 25 to 27. Here he says, "Son behold your Mother. "What he is really saying here to us is "I have completed my work. I have done my part in securing your salvation. I have done what my Father has asked me to do to reconcile you on to himself. You now for your part, will need to respond to what I have done. The ball is now in your court. You will find it difficult at times because the world will place tremendous pressure on you. You will find it difficult at times because your friends will turn against you. You will find it hard at times because your family will abandon you and betray you. But come to me you must. I am well aware of the difficulties that you will face, and so I am leaving you someone who understands the importance of responding to my call; someone who knows how to say yes to God's plan no matter how difficult it is; someone who knows how to say yes to God's will without counting the cost and without trying to fully understand before hand what is His will. I leave you in the care of my Mother, your Mother Mary who has demonstrated time and time again that even though she did not understand fully what was happening, she knew God, she trusted God, she knew that he will take care of her through it all and in spite of it all. I leave you my Mother, the specialist in saying yes to God. She will help you, she will show you the way. She will lead you to me. She will pray for you and intercede for you. So do not be afraid to take her into your home and make a permanent place in your heart for her."
Then Jesus said to his Mother, "Mother behold your son". What He really meant was, "Mummy you have always responded to God, even in very difficult times. You've always said yes to the will of God knowing that the odds were up against you, but more so knowing and trusting in the love of God. Now Mummy, I want you to teach them to do the same." The Bible is telling us that Mary is crucial to our Christian life because we need to respond to God and she will teach us how.
One day Jesus was preaching to a crowd of people, and a woman from within the crowd raised her voice and said, "Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!" But Jesus replied, "Even happier are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" Luke Chapter 11 versus 27 to 28. Here Jesus is emphasizing that his Mother Mary is not to be honoured simply because she is his mother, but rather because she always responded favourably and generously to God.
At the wedding feast in Cana in John chapter 2 verses 1 to 12, when Mary went to Jesus about the plight of the married couple and their wine running out, Jesus referred to her as "Woman". It is not a normal thing for someone to refer to their mother as "woman". I am sure it must have crossed most of our minds why Jesus referred to his mother there as woman. You see in the Old Testament, Eve was also called "woman". But in God's plan of salvation, she is the old "woman" who disobeyed God's will, while Mary is the "New Woman" who was obedient to God at all cost. Mary was being what the first woman was meant to be from the very beginning; one who said yes to the will of God; one who was obedient to him. This is what mother Mary does what she can teach us to do.
When we look at the Scriptures we can see very clearly Mother Mary's desire for us is the same as God's desire for us. Contrary to what many think and believe that Mary will lead us away from God, she will actually lead us to him. We see this very clearly by looking at the passage that deals with the Transfiguration when God says, "This is my beloved son. Listen to him." We also see that at the wedding feast in Cana, Mary noticed that they were out of wine, and went to Jesus and said, "Son they have no wine." Jesus responded by saying, "Woman, why turned to me? My hour has not yet come." But Mother Mary said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you. "In these two passages we can see clearly that Mary is saying the same thing to us that God is. They are both calling on us to listen to Jesus, to do whatever he tells us. They are both calling us into a relationship with Jesus Christ by following him and obeying him. The Saints have always said that the best devotion to Mary is to imitate her love for God's will. Both Mary and Jesus share the same passion; that God's will be done always. Mary will help us to do this. She is on the same side as God and will help us not to refuse God anything, for not only will this be pleasing to God, but it is what is best for us as well. She will help us to say yes to God when things make sense and when they do not make sense.
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