Do Whatever He Says

It is fitting that the first public miracle performed by Jesus took place during a local wedding feast. Feasts and banquets pervade the New Testament scriptures, including of course, the Wedding Feast to which we are invited, the heavenly and eternal banquet with our Father. Each Mass is in fact, a participation of the Heavenly Eucharist initiated by Jesus at the Last Supper. It is not a repetition of the event, but is a real participation in the one-time Pascal Sacrifice by our Lord and Savior.

The Gospel of John tells us that while Jesus, his family, and his disciples were attending this wedding in Cana, “the wine ran short, [and] the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’” (NAB, JN 2:3-5) Mary, who had some role in the supervision of the servants, gives clear direction to them, and to us, to do the will of her son, Jesus.

Mary, in her simplicity of faith, trusts in the will and actions of Jesus. Mary points to the Lord. She does not come up with her own plan regarding a problem of which she’s concerned, but instead relies on the love and compassion of God’s Only Son. Mary is the example par excellence of discipleship, as she comes to Jesus with her concerns; she tells him the “problem,” and then leaves it to him for resolution. Mary, the Mother of God, does not claim a position of superiority, demanding and arguing for her position; rather, in her incredible humility, she abandons her concerns at the feet of Jesus, and then, in perhaps the simplest and most direct instructions possible, Mary provides THE Key to Discipleship: “Do whatever he tells you.

The Miracle at Cana happens through faith, trust, and obedience, when Jesus turns the water gathered by servants into wine, not ordinary wine, but choice wine. The transforming power of Jesus, when the problem is solved according to his will, results in a situation that is even better than what it had originally been. By trusting Jesus, by doing what he says, and by obediently following him, Jesus transforms our lives to heavenly heights never before imagined.

Jesus, I trust in you. Increase my faith, that I may obediently follow you as I am transformed into the person whom you created me to be, a person far greater and more beautiful than can be imagined. Help me to recognize that I am a Child of the Kingdom, as my hope of heavenly reward is fulfilled in my daily journey of loving you and loving those in my life. Give me strength and courage when I am weak, that I may do whatever you ask, according to your will and for your glory. Amen.

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Mary, Our Mother

On this Eighth Day of Christmas, we mark the beginning of a New Year. It was on this day, scripture reminds us that the infant born to Mary was named: “When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (NAB, LK 2:21) Although the name “Jesus” was quite common just over 2000 years ago, Joseph and Mary gave him this name in accordance with the instructions from the Angel Gabriel. His name means “God saves” in his native language, as it is a combination of Ya, which is short for Yahweh, and hoshea, which means “salvation.” The Letter to the Galatians reminds us, “Brothers and sisters: When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God.” (GAL 4:4-7)

Salvation came to us through the birth of a child, and his mother Mary, through her “Yes” to the invitation of God, became the Tabernacle of God, the very Mother of God, as the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and Jesus, the eternal Son of God, was conceived in her womb. It is the woman Mary who brought this life into the world, and she is rightly to be given special recognition, adulation, and love, for she is the purest of disciples. Just as the waters of the Red Sea were split open, freeing God’s People from slavery and establishing a covenant through the Law, the waters of Mary’s womb broke open, giving birth to the Son of God who would bring freedom to all through a New Covenant established in love. We are the sons and daughters of inheritance, chosen by God, and having accepted his invitation, also call Mary our mother, just as Jesus himself did.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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Magnificat!

After she arrived at her cousin Elizabeth’s home, Mary is greeted by the beautiful and faith-filled words of Elizabeth, calling Mary “Most Blessed among women,” and crying out, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (NAB, LK 1:42) Elizabeth continues, proclaiming again how blessed is Mary, “the mother of my Lord.” (1:43) In response to Elizabeth’s praises, Mary speaks from the depth of her profound and saintly humility, and gives us a prayer composed of some of the most beautiful words of eternal love that have ever graced human ears:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” (LK 1:46-56)

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

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Family Matters

In the very first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (MT 1:1-17), we read the long list of Jesus’ genealogy, lists of successive generations of names, many of which we find hard to pronounce. For the people at the time of Jesus, this list had great meaning. Identities were wrapped up in family names, and this list demonstrated that Jesus was a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesse, David, and Solomon. Many of the prophecies regarding the Messiah were tied to his family of origin, so this genealogy also reveals that legitimacy of Jesus’ claims. After all, the Gospel of Matthew was written primarily to a Jewish community, and they would have clearly understood the importance of Jesus’ family heritage.

Another aspect of this list of names, is that it is full of saints and sinners. Great leaders and great sinners were all integral and part of the family history leading up to the birth of the Son of God. None of us choose our families, and neither did Jesus. His mother Mary had a real choice to make when she was visited by the Angel Gabriel. Mary could have rejected the message, but she instead chose to accept the life that God would give her. She lovingly said “yes” in a profound act of faith and hope-filled trust in God: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (NAB, LK 1:38) At these words, Mary’s womb became the Tabernacle of our Savior as the God-man Jesus was conceived. The Word of God became man through the words of a woman.

Father, I thank you for my family. We are also a mixture of saints and sinners, and although I did not choose them, they somehow chose me. I know that my life is a gift that came about through all of the historical circumstances, happenings, and choices that were made, generation after generation, from people I have never known, but without whom, I would not be here. My very DNA carries on the imprint of these now-forgotten souls. May they, and all the faithful departed, rest in your peace, and may I one day be reunited with them at the table of your Eternal Banquet in Heaven. Amen.

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Serve Others

While we pray and think about the upcoming celebration of Mary’s pregnancy and the birth of her son Jesus, Scripture makes us aware of another pregnancy with a promise. Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah, was becoming elderly and had been barren. Elizabeth, however, according to the prophecy of an angel and according to God’s will, did became pregnant with John the Baptist, and when Mary heard of Elizabeth’s pregnancy through the Angel Gabriel, she at once set off to help her elder cousin.

The nearly 100-mile trip that Mary took, likely by donkey along sweltering, unpaved roads, was difficult and treacherous, especially since she herself was pregnant. Nevertheless, her grace, the presence of Jesus, and her charitable desire to help her cousin supported her through her 4- or 5-day journey, until finally, “she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.’” (NAB, LK 1:40-44)

Mary stayed with her until just before the birth of John. Mary, the mother of God, served her cousin Elizabeth while she needed her. Jesus calls all of us to serve others in love and humility. [He who is greatest will be least. Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.]

Jesus, help me to see you and serve you in others. Fill me with your divine grace, so that through charity and humility, I may urgently serve you in others. Make me sensitive to those in need, especially the outcast, the rejected, the hurting, and the lost, so that your love, working through me, becomes a blessing to those in my world. Amen.

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Hail Mary, Full of Grace!

Today, we hear the incredibly beautiful words from St. Luke’s Gospel, where the Angel Gabriel confronts Mary with a profound and timeless message. He calls to Mary, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you…. Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (NAB, LK  1:28, 30) The Angel announces that Mary, although a virgin, will be the God-bearer. While Mary cannot understand how the words of God’s Messenger will come to pass, her trust and faith were far greater than her doubt and lack of understanding. Thus, she responded with the words of eternal consequence and perfect unity of will: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (1:38)

Mary is the example par excellence of faith and discipleship. Being the mother of our Lord, she is also Queen of all Apostles, since she was the first one, literally, to carry the Gospel, to carry the Good News, the Word of God made flesh in her womb. Mary is not to be adored, but because of her special role in salvation history and her immaculate nature, being full of grace, she is due a veneration that is higher than that of other saints and loved ones. She is not our biological mother, whose water broke open to give us life in this world; rather, she is the Mother of the Son of God, Jesus, our Lord and Savior. When Mary’s water broke open, the world received God made flesh, whose very presence sanctifies the womb and woman who carried him and who sanctified the waters of our own baptism in his. Mary, our Mother, was set apart from the moment of her conception, as she, from that very moment, was completely filled with saving grace of Almighty God.

Heavenly Father, give me your grace. I am in this world as a broken, homeless soul, restless and uneasy in heart because of my nature. Make me a true disciple like Mary, your mother, my mother, who let faith and trust lead her to your truth, and when I am confused, in doubt, or don’t understand, may I repeat the words given to me by our mother: I am the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word. Amen.

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