May 1, 2016
When I was in school, one of my friends, a non-Catholic student at Newman College, Edmonton, asked me, "Why do you Catholics, celebrate the birthday of Mary while the Gospel says nothing about that?" At that time my English was not good enough to discuss the theological reason on something like that. I replied, "During the war, all records of my mom's birth were destroyed. She does not even remember exactly where and when she was born. But we still celebrate her birthday because she exists and she is my mother." My friend did not give up, he said, "Mary is not your mother, even not your ancestor. You’re not Jewish, are you?" I answered him by a question, "Why can you call Jesus "brother", and you cannot call Mary “mother,” while Jesus calls her "mother."
The New Testament mentions Mary 19 times. Surely it wants us to discover a Mary whose role does not stop with physical maternity. The evangelists and first Christian communities want us to understand that the mother of Jesus is the first among those who believe, and who does the will of God, first in time to be exposed to the mystery of the Incarnation, and first because of the depth of her faith. She heard the word of God and kept it.
Representing Mary as a statue or image, no matter how glorious, has caused us to forget that she had a normal life and that, on the level of faith, she was not free of difficulties or of the progress that are part of our faith experience.
While insisting on the faith of Mary, the Gospel does not intend to show us an exceptional way, but suggests, on the contrary, that we use the same method. Wherever the Gospel is announced, we should look to Mary in order to discover, with her, the requirements for the daily pilgrimage in faith of Jesus.
Like Mary, we are also called to astonishment and joy: astonishment for what God has done for the world and for what we are for him; and joy in the discovery that humanity is loved by God and the poor are among the first invited to God's kingdom. Like her, we will also have days when there will be questions, anxieties, and difficulties in understanding. These will be part and parcel of our pilgrimage and the condition for our growth. Yet God invites us to have confidence and continue the journey. When we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus in the Eucharist, like Mary, we can learn to enter into the mystery of Easter, in which we must accept death in order to live.
For centuries, the Church has set aside the month of May to honour Mary, to imitate her virtues and to ask her to intercede for us. I wish this month everyone will pray to God with Mary in the devotion of the Holy Rosary. With her, pray for the Church, for each family and individuals.