Luke 1 v 39-45
In the centre of Europe on the boarder between three countries, Austria, Germany and Switzerland there is a lake called Lake Constant.
On that lake there is an Island and on the Island there is an old monastery. Over thousand years ago in the royal family in that area a child was born called Herman. This child was crippled from birth. The child was deformed in its hands legs and face. The family , which was the proud family did not want people to see their child. And so they sent the child to the Monastery on the Island. They told the monks there to keep the child and to keep the child hidden. They will send some money for the care of the child. And so heaven grew up in this lonely place. He never knew his family, he was never able to do things that all children can do. And he was constantly in pain. Herman was and intelligent child who somehow managed to learn to read and to write a little.
His life was lived in this lonely place and at the age of 37 he was dying. The brother who was attending to him in order to console the young man who was dying, told him that he had suffered a lot in life and that Heaven would be a place of rest for him. But Herman replied, “No my life had great peace and joy. And this is due in a special way to a prayer I said frequently especially when I was suffering. When I die you will find the prayer here on the table. Few days later Herman died and the brother found his prayer. This prayer has become the night prayer of millions of Catholic families for over thousand years. It is the prayer …used to pray and sing when they sat off on a dangerous journey by night on the sea. It is the Salve Regina, the Hail Holy …
If we pray that prayer remembering from where it comes the words will console us and mean a lot to us. For we too labor in this valley of tears, often we are weeping too. We need a mother, we need someone to bend over us and to console us.
I speak about Mary in this talk because when we read the history of the saints we find that most of them if not all were very devoted to Mary and always Mary led them to Jesus. They must have no fear of loving Mary, She is the Mother of Jesus the human person who new him best. She will lead us to him.
We remember Saint Maximilian Kolbe , the great Franciscan Martyr of the concentration camps. He offered his life to save a fellow prisoner. He died terrible death but singing hymns to Mary. The former Pope, John Paul dedicated his life to Mary.
We can… honor Mary because she is the Mother of Jesus. She was honored by God, She was chosen by God, She lived with Jesus. Many people visit the holy places of Israel today and pray there because these places are holy. Jesus lived there. How much more Holy is Mary the Mother of Jesus. Indeed if She was good enough for God then surely She is good enough for us.
But we also honor Mary because when God gives a task He does not withdraw it. She was the Mother of Jesus. She was there at Pentecost when the church was born. She is the Mother of the Body of Christ. And we are part of the Body of Christ. St Paul tells us. Mary in a special way is our Mother.
In Zulu we call Mary IKHWEZI LOKUSA, in Sesotho Mphatla le tsane. That is the Morning star. This is the star which heralds the birth of a new day. When the star appears soon the sun will rise. So with Mary, Mary builds the door who heals the …of the Savior Son, Jesus. All …encourage us to love and pray to Mary.
There are four Latin words which bring out different aspects of Mary’s life. The first word is AVE. This is the word used by the Angel Gabriel in Luke chapter 1 when he came and announce to Mary that she would be the Mother of God. This word reminds us that the call came from God. All things began with God. All is grace. But the Angel found Mary listening, the Angel found Mary believing, the Angel found Mary contemplating. There is a beautiful window in the great church built at the house of Mary in Nazareth which has a small window, where Mary’s house was. There is stain glass window in beautiful blue color which shows us the head of Mary listening. Yes, Mary had and listened to the voice of God.
There was a general in the army one time who served his King with great courage. But when he was away his wife joined in rebellion against the King. She was caught and sentenced to death. The general hurry back and took his wife and knelt before the King. The general begged the life of his wife. The King listened and parted her. Later the general send to his wife, “ did you not see the beautiful and kind expression on the face of the King when I pleaded with him?”. The wife replied that she that she had not because her eyes were on the love she saw on her husbands face who is willing to die in her place.
Mary’s eyes were always on God. It is that which gave direction and meaning to her life.
If as priests we take a role of Mary seriously then we will take a role of women in the church and in society seriously. The majority of the people in the church are women. They are more dedicated than we are. They work and suffer more than we too. It is estimated that 70% of all the work done in the world in one day is done by women. Yet, women earned less than 20% of the income.
They have to remember that God came through …and that Jesus shows wonderful respect for women.
We remember how Jesus reveal first to a woman, the Samarian woman in John chapter 4, that He was the Messiah.
We read in Luke chapter 8 verses 1-3, how many women accompanied Jesus on his journeys to the villages , his journeys of healing and preaching. We read that …. Who supported and cared for him in his work.
We remember the kindness of Jesus and his sensitivity to her in John chapter 8, when we see him dealing with the woman taken in adultery. We see his compassion for the widow of …., for Martyr and Mary, for the woman who was 30 years crippled in the Synagogue. We remember Jesus responding to the woman who touch the hem of his garment. And we remember a gentile Canaanite woman caring and forcing Jesus to care for a daughter and drive out an evil spirit.
We must have woman friends but they must be good woman friends. They are a gift to us and good women friends. They are a gift to us. We must not have an exclusive friendship, we must be open and transparent in our relationships. They will encourage us to love God more. Therefore, like Mary we must come to….
The second Latin word which tells us something of Mary’s life is Ecce. It appears of course in the Latin Gospel where Mary said, “Be hold” the handmaid of the Lord. This word Ecce where Mary puts herself at God’s disposal shows us that Mary obeyed. In many languages obedience and faith are almost the same word. Mary reminds us that we too are disciples. Obedience brings great blessings, and conscious …in my own life and in the live of so many people. I would say the best decisions I have made , I made them against my will but out of obedience.
The priests who are generous in obedience are the heart and soul of the diocese. They are willing to be moved, they are willing to help in difficult circumstances , they are willing to take on difficult jobs, they are willing to live poor lives for the sake of others.
The great example of priestly obedience in Pope John. This man wanted to work in a parish. But un ordination he was made the secretary of his bishop. Then when the bishop died he was sent to Rome to collect money for the missions. Later he was sent as a bishop to Bulgaria. This is a country with almost no Catholics. His task was to be an Ambassador there. He had little opportunity for pastoral work. He then went to Turkey which is an Islam antic difficult country. Then he was sent as an Ambassador to France and important Catholic country. Finally at the age of 73 he was appointed to his first pastoral responsibility as Cardinal, Archbishop of Venice. And yet this man did more for the church in the 20th century than almost everybody else. He had simple followed God’s will, against his own inclination he obeyed. And through his obedience … create a blessing for others.
We should live out for obedience and love for the church. We must not easily criticize the church or the bishop. That is …the self, cell phone culture where priests spend their time as swapping stories of scandal and bad humor among themselves. Obedience brings peace. So Mary believed and Mary obeyed, but Mary also suffered.
The next Latin Word is Miat. This word mean “Let it be done to me” By this word I wish to underline that Mary was prepared to do God will even if it involve great personal suffering. And it did involve great suffering. She had to give birth in a stable in Bethlehem. There was no room in the Inn. She had to run away from ….try to kill her child. She listened as the Prophet and the temple told her that has sword with pears her own heart. She lived in Nazareth where the neighbors try to kill Jesus. She was present at the crucifixion. She lived as a widow without a child after the death of Jesus.
Being a priest involves suffering. Let us learn from Mary that suffering is not God’s revenge. It is inevitable when we try to do good.
Also let us be sensitive to the suffering of women. Women are abused and oppressed in our society and yet it is they who do the nursing. Everywhere you see people who are disabled or in difficulty, you will find it is women who are caring for them not men. Woman are the heart of the home. The women is the bond in almost all families.
We remember the sisters who worked here in South Africa, they came here because they loved Mary. They did the work of Mary in Catholic hospitals and schools. In 1955 there were 55 Catholic hospitals in South Africa, some of the were most famous. Now we have just one hospital. And we bishops continually hear people crying and say when will the sisters come back. These women whose eyes on Mary and on Jesus had a great love for the sick and the suffering. We remember too that 27% of all welfare care of needy people in the world is done by the Catholic Church. There is also remember that the suffering of Jesus brings great joy.
Perhaps one of the famous man in the middle age was Abelard. He struggled with some of the great human problems. One of these was the problem of suffering.
One day Abelard was walking in the forest when he heard little rabbit screaming in pain. It was caught in a trap. He lifted it out and began to ask himself, ‘why is the suffering in the world, why do people suffer.
Abelard began to think about this and sat down on a tree. As he looked on a tree which had been cut he saw the dark and light rings going around in the tree. And he saw that these went from the root to the top of the tree. Abelard said so it is with the suffering, the suffering of Jesus. Jesus died and save us through suffering. But Jesus lives in the church and continues his suffering in people.
If we unite then our suffering with that of Jesus it will help to bring salvation and peace to many people.
The fourth word refers to Mary in the Gospel can also underline first an important dimension of her and all Christian life. Magnificat means to magnify of to praise the Lord. And so we find Mary on the discovery of her mother root to the power of Holy Spirit that her heart is filled with joy and she breaks out into the song and dance as she praises the goodness of God, “My soul magnifies the Lord, he had done great things for me, Holy is his name”. She has looked on the humility of his hand made.
Mary was close to God and so she felt a great joy and peace. People who love Mary have always known her as source of our joy.
If you go to wonderful Basilica of Mary in Nazareth you will find that people from all over the world and people in all the ages for 2000 years have loved to be with their Mother and joy and to praise God with her.
There is a magnificent Basilica to Mary opened in 1969. This Basilica is built over the house of Mary and over the old churches which were build at different times to honor her. When we enter this church we will find part of the wall goes back to the church built by the Franciscans in 1730. When the Franciscans were given just few months to build the church that will honor the memory of Mary. Also in this Basilica down further near the shrine of Mary’s home you will find the part of the wall of the Crusader build around the year 1200. We can see 800 years ago and 300 years ago people were gathering around Mary as we too today. And further down near the rock which survives of the cave in which Mary lived we find a forth century church built by St Helen, the Mother of the Emperor when this place was first opened for public worship.
Then in the third century we find the writings of a Spanish pilgrim who visited Nazareth that time. She wrote on account of her visit to a holy land. At Nazareth she said that the women of Nazareth are the most beautiful in the world. This is a gift given them by Mary who was in a special way their Mother. And at the base of pillar in this very agent church we can see scribbled, the world Ave. Which means that the early Christians after the death and resurrection of Jesus gathered around this holy place to pray and remember Mary the Mother of Jesus who was a fellow citizen in Nazareth. This was one of the first public church of the Catholic Church. And so this took place between the year 100 and 150.
So from the very beginning people have honored and praise God with Mary.
In the present Basilica we have many magnificent paintings and art works. These show different aspects of the vocation of Mary. It is the church of all the nations. We see one on the palm tree. Mary has seen as a palm tree carrying beautiful fruit, Jesus talk humanity. She has shown us the heart which gives music plays beautiful music for the heart of the King. She has shown us the star over a rolling sea which guides us home. She has shown us as a shame carrying of magnificent treasure, the Son of God. She has seen as a city on a mountain who defends its people. She has seen as an army in Baklarey, because Mary has always been the great enemy of sin.
Around the year 800 Saint John Danascene wrote , “Mary is a spiritual Eden where God walked. She is the arc of the covenant which carry the word itself. She is the Burney bush which was consumed by for God. She is the tablet of stone in which the holy spirit wrote in her heart, the word of God. He goes on to say, “You gave us the splendor of God and Heavenly manner”.
Finally let us teach devotion to Mary to our people. Tell them to cell phone Mary. They should ring 555. Five Hail Mary’s, Five Our Father, Five Glory Bes. That is that plays the Rosary and get better answers to their cell phone.
It is not interesting that in the United States it is found that if husbands and wives pray the Rosary together only one in five hundred divorce. If they do not pray the Rosary together then one into divorce. So I can conclude that Mary believed, She obeyed, She suffered and She praise God. We follow her as her children. She will lea