Homilies, Teachings & Pastoral Letters
TEACHING ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN WEDNESDAY, 23 JANUARY 2019 WYD 2019, PANAMA CITY CATECHESIS, INSTITUTO AMERICANO
THE YOUTHFUL MARY WHO SAYS “HERE I AM,” FIVE TIMESDear young people of Christ,
We find in the Scripture that Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of the Church, always lives life with a continuous response to God – “Here I am – use me …yes, Lord!”
I wish to consider prayerfully the five times in her youth where Mary says this in the New Testament.
Maybe, with God’s grace, we can imitate this awesome woman of faith.
The first instance in the Gospels where Mary says “Here I am” is in what we call the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38).
Here Mary is a young woman. Possibly so young that she would not be able to come to World Youth Day due to her low age. God has chosen her by grace. Maybe some would say it was a strange choice. Her origins are unknown. She came from a very remote area of the world. We’re not aware of any education nor do we know of any great claims to fame in her early years.
The great thing about Mary is her immediate hospitality to whatever God wants. She was given, by the grace of God, a great faith. She never asked the question, “Why me” she simply asked in humility “How is it to take place?” It is mentioned in this Scripture that she describes herself as a servant of the Lord. Biblically speaking, an English word which approximates this is the word “slave”. She becomes clay in the hands of the Master, our merciful Father.
The second time that the young Mary says, “Here I am” to the Lord is in the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-36).
Mary’s cousin is elderly. Mary finds out from the Archangel Gabrielle that her cousin too is with child. It is interesting to note that the Scriptures say, Mary, “set out with haste” to encourage and be with her elderly cousin. Once again, Mary says, “Here I am.” She sees a need and she wants to do something about it.
It would not have been easy for Mary to go on a pilgrimage from Nazareth to a suburb outside Jerusalem where Elizabeth lived. It was not only a dangerous pilgrimage but Mary is now pregnant. Mary doesn’t worry herself about such matters but is propelled to respond to the invitation of the Lord to share her joy with her cousin.
Indeed this pilgrimage of the pregnant Mary to Jerusalem could be called the first Eucharistic procession in Christian history. St John Paul II sometimes described Mary as “the tabernacle of God.” When she reaches Elizabeth there is the example of perhaps the first ever shared prayer in the Gospels in a Christian tradition. The shared prayer here is not with two but with four. There is Mary and Elizabeth, but also in their wombs are John the Baptist and Jesus. Even John the Baptist participates non-verbally by moving in the womb of his mother Elizabeth.
A third example of the youthful Mary saying “Here I am” to the Lord, is regarding the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-20).
One of the saddest expressions in the whole of the Scriptures, I believe, is when the pregnant Mary and Joseph are looking for lodgings in Jerusalem and to their dismay, there was “no room at the inn.” The coming of the Lord is met with inhospitality. The hospitality of God ultimately wins when it is placed before the inhospitality of our weakened human response.
There must have been enormous difficulties for Mary and Joseph in these hours before the birth of Jesus. With her complete trust in God perhaps Mary said in her prayer to Him, “there are many difficulties but here we are!” She gives birth to the Saviour. The shepherds become the first evangelisers of the Good News of Jesus as they announce his birth to the neighbourhood. Jesus is placed in a humble manger which is a feeding trough possibly made of wood. This gives some sort of Eucharistic indication of the Lord’s coming to feed his people. The fact that the manger may have been made of wood also relates to the wood of the Cross which awaits Jesus in his adulthood.
As for Mary in all this, she is described as having “treasured and pondered” all that is taking place. The “Here I am” response of Mary is always a contemplative response of treasuring and pondering.
The fourth example where the youthful Mary says “Here I am” to God is in the presentation of Jesus to the Prophets, Simeon, and Anna (Luke 2:22-38). Joseph and Mary follow the ancient tradition and soon after birth take their child Jesus and present him to the Lord. They follow the wisdom of others before them in doing this. Mary says to God, “here is the child you have given me, I now give him back to you and ask for your blessing.”
In the consecration of Jesus at this time, there is the encounter with the elderly man and woman of prayer, Simeon and Anna. Simeon prophesied to Mary that the coming of Jesus will place a “sword” in her heart in the future. There is no protest from Mary with this. Again she offers a contemplative response in saying, “Here I am” to God and treasures and ponders all these things.
Fifthly, a final way the youthful Mary said “Here I am” to the Lord is surely in the finding of Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:41-52). Jesus is lost. He becomes separated from Mary and Joseph. Three days of anguish pass before Mary and Joseph can find the lost Jesus. Inexplicably, he is in the temple teaching the religious leaders.
In a real sense of exasperation but loving attentiveness, Mary shares her pain with her young child. The Scripture says she was, “searching for Jesus...with great anxiety.”
She is both “astonished…and treasured” by her young son’s response to “doing the will of the Father.”
Yet here again she does not protest or walk away from the difficult scene. Once again she says to God, “Here I am”, and in great humility submits herself to the holy Will of God.
These five moments of the youthful Mary’s encounter with the Lord go to make up what we call the five Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary.
So it is easy to memorise all that I have given you in this talk. You pray them on your fingers every time you use the Rosary during the Joyful Mysteries.
Let us reflect even more deeply on these joyful mysteries when Mary says, “Here I am” so many times in her life either spoken or unspoken. Let us do the same.