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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories - Mary: Mother and Mirror of Us All

First a disclaimer – I have never been pregnant. Thus, to reflect on Mary and her pregnant visit to Elizabeth in Luke’s Gospel (1:39-56) is in many ways outside my area of knowledge and awareness. However, over the years I have had the honour of baptizing hundreds of newly born children. That privilege has afforded me the gift of observing parents at this blessed moment in their lives, and I am sure a blessing it has been. It has been a time of great joy as well as anticipation and excitement. Often too, the moment includes uncertainty, anxiety and even some fear. But more than anything it is a time of expectancy and hope.

This is what Luke presents in the first two chapters of his Gospel. This section is often referred to as the Infancy narrative. It draws on the faith and memory of the earliest communities of Christians. They were seeking to understand and express the person of Jesus as the Christ as well as his message and mission. Thus, Mary becomes a central figure in the story. She is both a prophet and a disciple as the story unfolds.

Like the prophets of the Old Testament, Mary comes to us as the voice of God embodied. Her life and her experience in Luke represent God’s constant willingness to reach out to touch the beloved creation and humanity that is set before us in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. There, in poetic form we are told that “God created the heavens and the earth”. Then after six days of work, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Gen.1:31)

The prophets of the Old Testament repeatedly expressed the continuance of God’s love for created humanity. They served as the bearer of God’s loving word to Israel especially in times of challenge and difficulty. Mary appears in this tradition. Her words in response to the blessing spoken to her by Elizabeth are the words of a prophet accepting her call: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior for he has looked upon his lowly servant.” Her proclamation repeatedly sings of God’s loving mercy for all.

In the New Testament, God is again comes to his beloved creation and humanity. Mary’s role is prophesy by action. She becomes the mother of Jesus and the vehicle of God’s incarnation among us, life-giving and loving. She becomes the bearer of God to our world in a marvelous way. With Mary and like Mary, we may not fully understand God’s ways, but we can certainly be amazed by God’s coming to us.

Jesus gathers many followers, disciples. He forms them and commissions them to bear the same message as he proclaims and reveals in himself. Mary pronounces this message with her proclamation in Luke. It is a message of love and support (“[lifting] up the lowly”), (“[filling] the hungry”); a message of mercy and compassion. In so many ways, Mary is the first of the disciple of Jesus the Christ.

Mary, is the mirror of us all, the bearer of the Christ into our world, the revelation of God among us. In our very selves, we are like Mary, prophets and disciples. So often we struggle to comprehend this vision of ourselves and others. Fr. Richard Rohr referring to the First Letter of John (1 Jn 3:2) reminds of who we all are: “Our inherent ‘likeness to God’ depends upon the objective connection given by God equally to all creatures, each of whom carries the divine DNA in a unique way.” (Richard Rohr. The Universal Christ, New York 2021 60-61.)

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