Mother Mary Luke of the Community of the Holy Cross preached.
The theme of today’s pilgrimage is, ‘From that day he took her to his house’. We are to take Mary into our homes, our lives. What does this mean and how does it affect how we live?
A couple of months ago I was having coffee after Mass with the priest and he told me that when he was a young incumbent he was invited to preach at Bradford Cathedral. When he got up into the pulpit there was a card under the lectern where he put his sermon which read, ‘Sir, we would see Jesus’ which brought him up short. When you think about it, it is what we should all be doing—showing Jesus to those who are seeking him. Our Lady was no exception. As we look at what is said about Mary in the Gospels it becomes clear that her whole life consisted of making her son known.
First of all, without Mary there would be no Jesus to show anybody. There she was, a young devout Jewish girl to whom came a revelation that she was to be the mother of the Messiah. Do you understand what I mean by ‘the shock of revelation? When someone says something or you read something which suddenly impinges on you; you are going to be a priest, a nun, a missionary.
There is an instant recognition that this is truth. In our case it is usually countered by a ‘Lord, not me. I can’t possibly do that’. And we spend the next few months or even years trying to persuade God and ourselves that he is mistaken. We bargain with God; if I do this, will you let me off that. In my case it was over a year before I succumbed and said ‘Yes’. Not so with Mary. Upon receiving the message from the angel, after a slight hesitation and query as to how it would come about, as she was not at that moment married, her response was, ‘Let it be to me as you have said’. The enormity of this response is well caught by a Russian Orthodox bishop, Philaret of Moscow; ‘In the days of the creation of the world, when God was uttering his living and mighty “Let there be”, the word of the creator brought creatures into the world. But on that day, unprecedented in the history of the world, when Mary uttered her brief and obedient “So be it”, I hardly dare to say what happened then—the word of the creature brought the Creator into the world’.
And what does Mary do then? She tells Joseph, who himself then has a shock of recognition.
This child is conceived by the Holy Spirit and Joseph is to take Mary into his home, take care of her and her son Jesus, until he shows himself to the world.
The next person to whom Mary shows Jesus is Elizabeth, her cousin, who welcomes her into her home. I think Mary must have been greatly encouraged by Elizabeth, who was another woman who had experienced great things from God. “Why has it been granted me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” And the babe in her womb leapt for joy—Mary had shown him and his mother, Jesus.
In the birth narratives Mary shows Jesus to three groups of people. First to the shepherds, then to Simeon and Anna in the Temple and thirdly to the Magi. These three groups represent the pious devout Jews who are looking for the consolation of Israel, the marginal Jews, whose occupation prevents them from living strictly according to the Law of Moses, and the Gentiles; those outside the covenant. All these are led to where Jesus is by a manifestation of some sort---a shock of recognition? And they find Jesus with his mother Mary.
The last episode before Jesus manifests himself in adulthood is when as a young lad he is brought by his mother and Joseph to Jerusalem. There he stays behind when the caravan leaves to go back to Nazareth and after three days Mary and Joseph find him in the Temple. He is shown to the scribes and elders there as having remarkable knowledge of the Law. He has come to his Father’s house.
Jesus’ ministry begins when he is baptised by John but Mary is instrumental in his performing the first of his signs, at Cana. I think this is the most interesting of the stories involving Our Lady.
First of all, the wedding party hosts invite her into their home, and along comes Jesus with his disciples. There arises a very embarrassing and humiliating situation---the wine has run out. Mary mentions this to her son; after all, his unexpected arrival may have contributed to the wine running out. Nearly every commentator considers Jesus’ reply to his mother to be a rebuke: “Woman! What have you to do with me? My hour is not yet come”. Perhaps he is thinking of his struggle in the desert when he rejected any thought of a miracle of such magnitude that onlookers would be forced to recognise him as the Son of God.
But I am not so sure it is a rebuke. There is a very strong bond between a mother and her children, particularly between mother and son. I think she may have had a shock of recognition that this WAS the moment for him to manifest himself---and so she tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says. Jesus too recognises that this is the hour—another shock of recognition?---and commands the servants to fill the water pots.
After this episode Mary slips into the background until the crucifixion where Jesus gives her to the beloved disciple as his mother and gives the disciple to Mary as her son in place of him. And from that moment he took her into his house.
Mary is present at Pentecost but we have no scriptural proof that her son appeared to her after his resurrection. There is a tradition in the Orthodox Church that suggests that Jesus must have appeared to his mother and there is a troparion which goes, ‘ “What a deep of tender mercies have been hidden from you” said our Lord to his mother in secret.’ At some point tradition has it that she and John went to live in Ephesus and there she lived until she was assumed bodily to be with her son in heaven.
But in the intervening years she presumably pondered on all the events of Jesus’ life and spoke about them to John, Luke, Paul perhaps, and anyone else who passed through Ephesus.
What do all these episodes say to us today? We are to take Mary into our own homes, our lives and be sons and daughters to her, true offspring. We must follow her in her trustful obedience, in her prayerful pondering so when the shock of recognition occurs we respond with our own “Let it be” which brings the creator of the world into his creation. And when this happens we are to make Jesus known to others, by what we say, do and are. That is the vocation of every single one of us.
At the end of our lives let us pray that the Holy Trinity; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, will take us into their home, as they did Mary, where we will see Jesus and worship him in eternity.