An anonymous comment I received in my most recent blog implied that if we give honour to the Blessed Virgin Mary we dishonour Christ. Sadly, this is a view held by many Protestant Christians. But sadder still is that they tend to hold these views without actually having looked into Catholic teaching for themselves. They hold their biases and anti-Catholic sentiments based on what they have been told by people who aren’t Catholic – as if people who are hostile to the Church will give a fair representation of true Catholic teaching. Like the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen said: “There aren’t a hundred [people] who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they think the Catholic Church is”.
Knowing how I would feel if people spread lies about my earthly mother, I sometimes wonder about how our Lord’s heart is pierced when Christians, His own brothers and sisters, spread lies about His (and our) Blessed Mother e.g. claiming that she was tainted with sin; or that she was not perpetually a Virgin...or even disowning her by claiming that she is NOT our Mother – and this after the Lord so lovingly gave her to us in His dying words on the Cross of Calvary. Now, all this is obviously done in ignorance, and with good intentions...but it is still not the truth about Our Lady. Given that Mary is the Mother of the Divine Word, Protestant Christians (who no doubt love the Lord) owe it to themselves and the Lord Jesus Christ to find out the truth about Mary.
On that note, the Gospel reading for this Sunday (29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B) actually contains an allusion to Our Blessed Mother without actually mentioning her by name. Here is the reading:
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him,
"Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."
He replied, "What do you wish me to do for you?"
They answered him, "Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left."
Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the cup that I drink
or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"
They said to him, "We can."
Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink, you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared."
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.
Jesus summoned them and said to them,
"You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
James and John asked our Lord if they could sit on His left and right when He took possession of His kingdom. At this stage, they were still thinking in worldly terms under the impression that Jesus’ kingdom would be a worldly one. Jesus however seeks to set their thinking straight when He asks them whether they can are willing to be united with Him in His Passion (which is what He means by His cup and His baptism).
Jesus was trying to tell James and John that His kingdom was not of this world (Jn 18:36), and that we must suffer with Him if we are to reign with Him in glory. St. Paul picks up this principle later in the New Testament when he tells the us that we must suffer with Him in order to be glorified with Him (Rom 8:17; 2 Tim 2:12).
Not knowing what they were committing to, James and John replied that they were ready and willing to share in Jesus’ baptism. Even though they didn’t understand at this point, they would understand after the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord – and they would certainly share in His sufferings when both would become martyrs for the faith.
But what about Mary? I mentioned that this passage alludes to her, and yet she is still nowhere to be seen? After James and John make their reply to Jesus, He tells them that they certainly would share in His Passion; but to sit on His right and left were not His to give. The implication is that the Father has reserved this position of supreme honour to the one who is most united to the Son in His suffering. Who might this be?
There is no greater sorrow in this world than that of a mother who has lost a child. Put this in the context of the Incarnate Son of God born of the Virgin Mary and it is not difficult to see that the sorrow experienced by Mary at the death of Jesus was infinitely greater than what could possibly be experienced by any other mother on earth. In fact, the Holy Spirit deemed it significant enough to inspire Holy Simeon to prophesy of it when he said in Lk 2:34-35:
“Behold this child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel and for a sign which shall be contradicted.
"And a sword shall pierce your own soul, that, out of many hearts intentions may be revealed.”
As Jesus was drinking the cup of His Passion, Mary’s heart and soul was being thrust through in a way that you or I could NEVER understand. And yet, we see her at the foot of the Cross – STANDING! It is no ordinary Mother who could stand so silently and resolutely as she beheld the execution of her innocent Child – only she who by God’s grace was full of grace.
Just as the Lamb of God was silent being led to the slaughter; so too does the Mother of God stand at the foot of the Cross in silence, dying her own agonising death. When the Roman soldier picked up that lance and thrust it into the side of Jesus, he pierced not just one heart, but two – the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In that one moment, as Jesus hangs dead on the Cross, a sign of contradiction, Mary’s soul is pierced for the purpose of revealing the intentions of men’s hearts [this is why we as Catholics bring the intentions of our hearts to Jesus through Mary, to use the words of Blessed Simeon].
So not only was Mary inseparably united with God in the Incarnation; but she was also inseparably united with Him in His Passion. And if she suffered in such union with Him, we should not be surprised that she is also inseparably united with Him in His Ascension and Glorification [i.e. in her Assumption and Coronation].
By honouring Mary, we do nothing less than imitate Our Blessed Lord who, in obedience to the Fourth Commandment, bestowed His own glory upon the Mother who gave Him His Most Precious Body and Blood. We obey the same Commandment when we honour Our Mother in the way that Jesus does. If Jesus exalted Mary – we MUST exalt Mary.
Giving honour to Mary is rooted in Sacred Scripture. Giving honour to Mary does not dishonour the Lord Jesus Christ. On the contrary, giving honour to Mary magnifies the honour due to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Honour, glory, and love to our Divine Lord Jesus, and to the Holy and Immaculate Mother of God. AMEN.