#52 COMPASSIONATE MOTHER

Mary2.jpg

“…Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5)

Introduction

I believe that another reason we are often confused about devotion to Mary is because we have a poor understanding of Family and the role of a Mother in the household. We call God “Father”. And Christ is our brother because he taught us to pray, “Our Father” (Mt 6:9). He also calls each of us to behold our mother (Jn 19:27). If we see our relationship with God and the saints as a family affair, we will come to appreciate our faith in God more deeply and how much he wants us to be a part of his divine household.

Adventure Time

Ideas about Mary fill the pages of Scripture from the beginning of the first book through to the end of the last. She was there, in God’s plan, from the beginning of time, just as the apostles were, and the Church, and the Saviour, and she will be there at the moment everything is fulfilled. Still her motherhood is a discovery waiting to be made.

In Scripture, there are only a handful of passages referring to motherhood, matriarchy and maternity. This contrasts with the hundreds of citations about fatherhood, patriachy and paternity. What is wrong with this picture? Perhaps motherhood is so little understood and appreciated because mothers are so close to us. Infants, for example, do not even understand that Mother is a separate entity until they are several months old. Some researchers say that children don’t fully come to this realisation until they are weaned. It is admissible that we may never be able to distance ourselves psychically from our mothers, except of course, you don’t have a first hand experience of a mother. But I doubt that very much. We shall speak about motherhood in details later. For now, we must catch up on one motherly trait that we see in Mary – loving concern for the welfare of others.

Oh Woman!

The stage is set for Jesus’ first public sign. He arrives at the wedding feast with His mother and His disciples. A wedding celebration, in the Jewish culture of the time, normally lasted about a week. Yet we find, at this wedding, that the wine ran out very early. At which point, Jesus’ mother points out the obvious to her Son: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3). It is a simple statement of fact. But Jesus seems to respond in a way that is far out of proportion to His mother’s simple observation. “O woman,” he says, “what have you to do with Me? My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4).

In order to understand Jesus’ seeming overreaction, we need to understand the phrase “what have you to do with me?” Bear in mind that after the brief chit-chat between them, Jesus fulfills the request He infers from Mary’s observation. If He intended to reproach her, he surely would not have followed His reproach by complying with her request. A commentary note in the New American Bible on this verse tells us that “Woman” is a polite and normal form of address and not a way of putting someone down.

Some people make a case about Jesus’ choice of words. “What have you to do with me?” It has two connotations. It is a Hebrew expression of denial of common interest (cf. Hosea 14:8,9; 2Kg 3:13). The expression is also used to express permissiveness. The expression was also used by a man possessed by a demon to address Jesuus and acknowledge his authority over the man and the demon. “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” “I beseech you, do not torment me,” he continues, thereby affirming that he must carry out whatever Jesus commands (Lk 8:28; Mk 5:7).

At Cana Jesus defers to His mother, though she never commands Him. She, in turn, merely tells the servants, “Do whatever He tells you”. Some saints and spiritual writers see in Mary’s action at the Wedding in Cana, a display of a high degree of charity. “So great was Mary’s charity when on earth,” Saint Alphonsus Ligouri says, “that she succoured the needy without even being asked; as was the case at the marriage feast of Cana when she told her Son that family’s distress: ‘They have not wine’”. Since goodness is always worthy of emulation, we should imitate Mary’s loving concern for others.

Ours for the Asking

John the Evangelist as well as the spiritual writers are pointing to the fact that this woman knows the way to her son’s heart. And we should take advantage of it. Mary for her part is not presumptuous of her Son’s kindly nature and tells us to approach him after she has alerted him to our request. Mary is clearly not our mediatrix with God the Father but she is our mediatrix with her Son. It will be presumptuous of us to think that we can ask Jesus for anything by our own strength. Jesus is God and the prayer of a sinner is an abomination before God (Prov 15:8). You stand a better chance brokering a deal with his mother, who incidentally is your mother too. Anyone who grew up in a home knows that a mother has a special key that unlocks the heart of any member of the family.

The functional home, with a Father, Mother and children (and even extended family members), is the closest analogy we have to the inner dynamism of our relationship to God and the saints (cf. Eph 2:19). God is our Father, Jesus is our Big Brother and Mary is our Mother. Her place in God’s household is undeniable.  I like to quote Scott Hahn as a way of closing this piece. He says that, “The breakaway Christian churches that diminish Mary’s role inevitably end up feeling like a bachelor’s apartment: masculine to a fault; orderly but not homey; functional and productive—but with little sense of beauty and poetry.”

#49 THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD

Jesus-Baptism

Lk 3:21 “When all the people had been baptised and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape like a dove.”

Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus and God’s revelation of him as the “beloved Son”.  We also remember our own baptism when we became God’s beloved children.

Expectations

The people in Jesus’ time expected a Messiah. They had their ideas of who this Messiah should be and what He should do. We also have expectations as Christians. Your expectation should be in line with who you are and who God is enabling you to become. Your expectations should be consistent with what God wants for you. As His children, we should strive to be what God wants us be; to give up what does not lead to God, and all inordinate worldly ambition. Live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age (cf. Titus 2:12; Micah 6:8). Our lives should bring others closer to God.

Adoption

Who is the long-expected Messiah? It is Jesus, the beloved Son of God. What does He do? Baptise us with the Holy Spirit and Fire. Who are we? The beloved of God, His adopted children and heirs of His kingdom. The Greek word translated “adoption” is huiothesia, and it occurs only five times in the New Testament, all in the letters of St Paul (Rom 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5). It means “to formally and legally declare that someone who is not one’s own child is henceforth to be treated and cared for as one’s own child, including complete rights of inheritance.” In the Roman culture, the adopted son or daughter had four major changes: a change of family, a change of name, a change of home, and a change of responsibilities. “Adoption” clearly indicates that a Christian is a member of God’s family.

What are we to do? Embrace a journey of discovery about Jesus and ourselves that sets us on fire for God. All our expectations should be directed toward faithful baptismal living.

Baptismal Rite

The baptismal rite put into focus the primary gift of baptism – a share in divine life which is for us a new identity:

Water – plunged into the baptismal waters, we are plunged into Christ’s death; rising we share in divine life. Water brings both death (to our old selves) and a rebirth of life (new Life in God).

Chrism: anointed with chrism, we share in the threefold office of Christ- priest, prophet and ruler. Our anointing with chrism is a consecration of ourselves to conform our life to Christ’s.

White garment: clothed in a white garment, we are reminded of our new, holy, risen Life in Christ. We are to live unstained until we enjoy eternal Life with God.

Lighted candle: enlightened by Christ, we are also to be Light of Christ dispelling sin and darkness in the world. We ourselves are manifestations that in Christ the light of salvation has come into the world (cf. Jn 1:9; 8:12).

These Symbols also imply the demands of discipleship:

  • Water: dying to self;
  • Chrism: conforming ourselves to Christ;
  • White garment: living lives worthy of who we are;
  • Lighted candle: overcoming the darkness of sin.

Primarily these symbols help us understand who we become in baptism – members of the Body of Christ sharing in divine identity.

Greater awareness and appreciation of our identity enables us to be more faithful in our discipleship.

Baptismal Living

Faithful baptismal living both fulfils expectations and generates new ones. This is why baptismal living is a journey of discovery. Baptism opens us to a Presence that continually transforms who we are and what we can do for others. Baptism offers us new Life in the Holy Spirit, one that is steadfast yet unpredictable, familiar yet surprising, restful yet energizing. Baptismal living calls us not simply to run away from sin but to realise that everything we do can be done to the glory of God (cf. 1Cor 10:31; Col 3:17). Our every action can become an act of worship. Baptism sets no on fire with love for God.

Baptism and Prayer

If baptism is the flame, prayer is the wax that keeps it burning. Jesus’ first action after His baptism was to pray to the Father. Luke mentions ten different occasions when Jesus sought the solitude of prayer (Lk 3:21-23; 4:1-2; 4:14; 5:15-17; 6:12-13; 9:18-20; 9:28-29; 11:1-4,9; 22:39-46). He did this to give us an example of how God’s children should long to communicate with their heavenly Father. He also did it because, God’s will is revealed when we spend time with Him. We grow to love, trust and live for Him.

Prayer: Thank You Lord for making me your child through the waters of Baptism. Give me strength to love you and seek a deeper and more loving relationship with You.

#1 Dear Diary

Dear Diary,
This is the first of several entries I shall be making. Since it has been a while I kept a proper dairy, I wish to tell you why I decide to start again. Over five years ago, my big brother told me he was happy I could keep a dairy, even when I told him that all I ever wrote were my thoughts about the passages I read from Scripture. He had previous tried to keep a dairy but didn’t have the discipline to continue. I have written something every day for the past five years. An article I once read about creative writing advised that I write something, no matter how small and insignificant each day. Today I have several writing media, most of them on social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and a blog. Now I also have you. Others are note pads that are clogging my shelf and preventing me from stacking more books on them.
As part of my de-clogging mechanism, I wish to keep a diary. I wish to write here all that come to me in my quiet time: my thoughts on scripture passages that I read, my memorable conversations with friends and people that I meet each day. Since I am in a new environment, I wish to tell you the new things I learn each day and the knowledge I gain from my surrounding. Forgive me if ever I fail to write. Pardon me when I have very little to say. You must also pardon me when I become uncontrollably garrulous. I am sure you will get used to my babblings.
Something struck me when I decided to write this entry. I thought that we should take names. The movie “TRANSFORMERS” is one of my favourite movies of all time. So I wish to inject some of its elements into our conversation. I shall begin by taking a name after one of its outstanding Characters. I wish to be known to you as BLOGATRON. You will not be my rival but you will be known to me as DOCTIMUS PRIME. I, a BLOGGer shall report to you as often as time permits, to DOCument my memorable experiences and share with you all that I have learnt. Do permit me to record my reflection based on my Reading of the Gospel passage from Luke 11:15-26.

prayer1

I was particularly fascinated by verse 20,
“But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you.”
The Jews had accused Jesus of casting out a demon from a sufferer by the power of Beelzebul. I am not sure whether they were concerned or simply envious of Jesus’ audacity in the face of evil. Jesus simply makes it clear that evil and good can never be on the same side. He was clearly God and He made no pretence about it. He is able to do anything for the good of those who believe and trust in Him.
I know, dear Doctimus Prime, from experience, that once a person encounters God, their life is never the same. Fear and Doubt are the only things that can become obstacles to a fruitful encounter with Him. Fear can make me exaggerate the power and influence of the devil on my life. It is almost impossible to see anything God is doing for me. Little wonder the opponents of Jesus in the reading attributed his miracle to the power of Beelzebul. I know that he devil exists and that he is powerful.
1Pt 5:8 says that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Ephesians 6:12-18 also warms that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers… So I should always put on my armour of God: the belt of Truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of Christian witness to the Good News of Peace, the shield of faith, salvation as a helmet, the spiritual sword which is the Word of God, and prayer as well. With this armour of God I am battle-ready all the time.

armor of God

A potent sign that Jesus is greater than my fear is that he casts out a demon by “the finger of God”. If only a finger can dispel the devil, what would His hand do? There is clearly no ground on which the devil can contend with Jesus (cf Jn16:33).
Doubt can blind me to what God is already doing in your life. I may want to believe that what is important is a pressing need of mine but God knows what I need and takes better care of me. He is only hindered by my impatience. He wants to transform me first and make me better prepared to receive His gifts. Sometimes when it is taking too long for God to answer me, I begin to question his ability to grant my request. Before long, I begin to entertain thoughts to seek help elsewhere.
But when I tell myself that I am going to seek Jesus in another Church, what am I really saying? Are there two “Jesuses”, one belonging to my Church and another in another Church? Or am I saying that Jesus has absconded from my Church which is His Church (cf Mt 16:18)?
So I realise that I should learn to believe in God. I must remain with him if I truly wish to make spiritual progress. I should ask God to root out fear and doubt from my heart and implant a spirit of trust and faith (cf Ez 36:26). I will do just that right away.
Prayer: Lord, you are stronger than my fears and doubts. Root out whatever keeps me from holding on to you with trust, amen.
Yours,
BLOGATRON