Where does one begin to talk about Mary, Mother of God? In my mind, there is nothing and no one that can compare to her. She’s all that I have ever wanted and more. She’s my mother, my friend and my hope. I understand that Jesus is our hope. However, how do we get to Jesus? How did Jesus come to us? Who will intercede for us before the throne of God at our final judgment? Whose prayers will ring the loudest across the heavens begging God’s mercy for us? Who will ask her Son not to look upon our sins, but to have compassion on our ignorance? Who will gather the saints of heaven around the throne of Christ to pray for our souls?
At the wedding in Cana, Mary goes before Jesus and says, “They have no more wine.” Jesus responded, “What does this have to do with me? My time has not yet come.” In modern language one would say, “Their poor planning does not mean an emergency for me?
If we believe in the saying, “Silence is consent,” then we can assume that Mary agreed, because she does not debate the point with Jesus. However, despite the fact that there may have been poor planning on the part of the hosts, Mary knows that her concerns are her son’s concerns and that once she expresses compassion for an unfortunate person Jesus will not let it go without acting on it. Inspired with this knowledge, she tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” So they did. They brought the jugs of water, just as Jesus asked them to do.
I can’t help thinking about this. All these servants did was to bring some jugs of water to Jesus, no great accomplishment. Yet, Jesus turns the water into wine and saves the host the embarrassment of not having more wine. It is this combination of doing what Jesus tells them and Mary’s intervention that saves the day, obedience and prayer.
Without her intervention there would have been no wine. Without the wine, there would have been a scandal. It was scandalous for a host not to have more food and drink than his guest could consume.
No one knows what God has in mind until it happens. One thing is certain. From all eternity, God knew that this moment would come. The Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity knew that it would be his mother who would set his public life into motion. Did God plan it this way? I doubt it. God does not manipulate human freedom. The poor planning was just that, poor planning. Mary’s intervention was of her own initiative, not a divine manipulation. Jesus’ assent to his mother’s concern was also freely given.
When everything else failed, the Mother of God was their last hope. It was not Jesus’ time. He had no plans to begin his public ministry at this wedding; even though he knew that this was how it was going to begin. And so it has been for me throughout my entire life. My poor planning, my self-indulgence, my ignorance, arrogance and at times laziness has often led me into situations similar to that of the wedding hosts, apparent dead ends and anxiety. Yet, when I remember the scriptures there are several verses that always come to mind, one of them is, “Do whatever he tells you.”
I struggle with temptation and sin. I’m not going to say how much more or how much less than others, because I don’t know and it’s not that important. The fact is that for me the struggle often seems insurmountable. When I’m about to give up and just stop trying to climb up the mountain, I remember her words, her face and her heart.
Hers must be the most beautiful face in the universe. I have musings of this tender mother, whose face shines so gloriously that it’s blinding to the naked eye. Yet, she makes it possible for us to gaze on her with the confidence of nursing children looking at their mother’s breast, knowing that she will feed them. I often imagine her glorious beauty coming through the light with a pleasant look of concern and compassion.
In the same image, I can see her heart; an immaculate heart filled with love . . . a heart where there is no room for resentment and rejection. Stop and think about this for a moment. Where is a mother’s heart? It’s directly over her womb. It’s the one sound that every child hears and recognizes as his mother’s. During those 40 weeks in the womb, it is the beating of the mother’s heart that puts the child to sleep, that sets the rhythm of the days and nights for the child, and after the child’s birth, it is through the beating heart that the child first identifies his mother. Remember, he has never seen her face, but he knows her heart.
The Incarnate Son of God, through whom we were created and for whom we were created also knows his mother’s heart. Her prayers, her desire for our salvation, her love for us and her maternal assistance are well known to him. For this New Year, I pray that we may all make greater effort to live as closely as possible to the Mother of God, whose heart will guide our steps to do what her son asks of us. At the end of our life, her heart will open itself to her Son as it did at Cana. Just like at Cana, he will again be unable to resist the love that he sees in his mother’s heart and he will have compassion on us who have appealed to her for assistance.
A New Chapter . . . 2013
You know, in the world of Kindle, Nook, iPads and Internet, the typical book is becoming an artifact. It’s a pity, because a book is a very powerful icon of human life. I was thinking about this during mass. OK, you got me. I was wool gathering during mass. Actually, the sermon triggered it. It was one of the best sermons I’ve heard all year. My compliments to Father Nestor of the Archdiocese of Miami for an inspirational homily on the meaning of New Year’s Day.
As Father was speaking about the need to take inventory of how we have lived our faith and the opportunity to plan for a better year, I suddenly thought of a book. I could see this small, traditional red hard cover book in my mind. It reminded me of life, yours and mine. Our lives are like a book. That’s why I regret that in the not too distant future, the traditional book will become an artifact, because it’s a wonderful icon, as I have already said above.
A book has a visible beginning and end. It has perceptible chapters. One ends and the other begins. So too do our earthly lives. They begin at conception and end at death. Each year is a chapter. One ends and one begins.
The attempt of a good writer is to keep the story moving, to inspire the reader to go on to the next chapter. To do so, the writer works hard to keep our attention focused. He has a thread that runs through the book, often referred to as a plot. There is always a protagonist and an antagonist, not necessarily human, but there are conflicting forces. It’s tension that keeps the reader’s interest. It’s funny, because we live in a society where we’re all dying of heart conditions, but we thrive on tension . . . go figure.
New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day is not just another year out and a new one in. It’s a point of transition in our history. It’s also an opportunity to tighten up the plot to give pleasure to the reader. To do so, we have to look back at the chapter that is closing and carefully lay out the next chapter. Like any good piece of literature, there are adjustments made along the way for the unexpected. But like a good writer, we should never begin a new year without a plan. Such an action is reckless. It’s a sin against the God who created time for our benefit, not his. God does not live in time and space. Our lives must be a book that is pleasing to God. Each chapter or year should represent an attempt to outshine the previous one. Otherwise, we’re wasting the gift of time.
Here are some questions to help us examine our previous chapter and plan the next one. I’m sure that there are more. If you want to share them, please post them. I’ll make sure that they are seen.
- Did I make proper use of the sacraments this past year?
- How much time did I give to prayer?
- Did I forgive and ask for forgiveness?
- What about the things that I own and the money that I make? Did I use it wisely?
- Did I make proper distinctions between what my family and I need and what my family and I want?
- Were my business dealings honest and were my business decisions just and fair to those who are weaker than I am?
- Did I cave to pressure rather than stand up for the voiceless?
- What about the Church, am I faithful to her teachings or is being Catholic just a family tradition?
- If I’m a parent, did I take seriously my responsibility for my children’s souls or did I give them passes on mass and religious education?
- Let’s go back to material things. How much of an effort did I make to teach my children that all created things are not for them and that everything that God gives us is for the benefit of others as well as our own or did I fulfill their every desire reinforcing their sense of entitlement?
- Do I manage my relationships out of love or out of guilt?
- Are my relationships based on charity and concern for the other and the satisfaction of the other person’s company or are they purely utilitarian?
- Do I knowingly let others use me and my gifts for their selfish purpose?
- Have I stood up to challenge immorality in our society, in my family, in my workplace or did I cave because, “I have a family to think about?” Since when does family take precedence over truth?
- Am I aware of the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell? What would God say about my book, if I died tonight?
If this last chapter has not been as good as we would like it to be, God is still giving us time to begin a better chapter. Let us make good use of the precious gift of time.
Information night on the Franciscans of Life and
Project Joseph — January 7, 2013 — 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM
Proud dad and daughter
(Published with permission)
St. Maximilian Kolbe Education Center
701 N. Hiatus Road, Room 206
Pembroke Pines, FL 33026
For driving directions call Br. Bill
305 – 527 – 3353
DO NOT call Br. Jay. He gets lost going to the kitchen.
However, for more information write to
The Franciscan Brothers of Life wish you and your family a happy and grace-filled New Year — Br. Jay, FFV