Mary: From Child to Intercessor
Written by: Robert Buechner
There are very few words recorded in scripture attributed to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. The first time we hear from her is in the gospel of St. Luke when the angel Gabriel appears to her and tells her she has been “greatly blessed.” This statement is an affirmative scriptural reference to Mary’s “Immaculate Conception.” She is not yet pregnant but Gabriel says she has already been prepared for her calling to be the mother of Jesus. The Church teaches that this preparation started with her sinless conception as a worthy “vessel” or “ark” for Jesus. When Mary speaks she questions Gabriel’s message and asks, “How can this be as I am a virgin?” The angel assures Mary and says, “The Holy Spirit will overshadow you and the power of God will rest upon you.” Mary then becomes very humble and submissive to the words of Gabriel and says, “Let it be done to me as you have said.”
Next we hear Mary’s words when she visits her relative Elizabeth who is pregnant with John the Baptist. Mary is also pregnant and when she enters Elizabeth’s house, Elizabeth immediately knows of Mary’s pregnancy and says her child “leapt in her womb.” Mary’s demeanor is now one of joy and excitement as she tells Elizabeth her feelings through a song of praise. “My heart praises the Lord; my soul is glad because of God my Savior, for he has remembered me, his lowly servant….” She has truly accepted her calling and is overjoyed with what is to come.
Now, about eighteen years later, we read in scripture again about Mary and what she has to say. This is the last time we hear from Mary in scripture. Mary and Jesus have been invited to a wedding in the town of Cana. During the wedding feast the host runs out of wine. This was not a good thing as wedding feasts could go on for several days and it was up to the host to maintain the flow of food and wine. Mary brings this to Jesus’ attention.
As recorded in scripture, Mary’s roll changed with each encounter we read. First she is a shy and submissive young woman who is willing to accept what God asks of her. Next, we saw a Mary who has come to accept and even become joyful about her place in God’s great plan. The next time at the Temple, we see the motherly instincts of a worried parent challenging Jesus’ actions yet displaying the love of a mother. Now, at Cana, we see Mary showing the full authority of a mature mother who knows her child. Mary has told Jesus of the situation at the feast and Jesus seems to be slightly perturbed and tells his mother, “My time has not yet come.”
You might expect Mary, knowing who her son is, would drop the subject and become submissive to his wishes. Mary surprises us here and turns her attention to the servants at the wedding and tells them to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. We hear nothing more from Mary. We know the end of the story of the wedding at Cana, but what have we learned about Mary from it? Mary is now a full-fledged mother.
She has raised her son from birth caring for him and teaching him as he grew. She has brought him up as a faithful Jew, suffered many hardships over the last thirty years, and has been forced to move in order to keep Jesus safe throughout his childhood. Now we see a Mary who has influence not only on his rearing but also over what he does. Jesus could have refused to do anything about the wine at the wedding feast but he chooses to fulfill her wish. As Mary was once submissive to God’s wishes, Jesus is now submissive to his mother Mary’s wishes. Why is this important to us as Catholics?
The Church teaches that Mary was conceived without sin in order to be a worthy tabernacle for the formation of the human side of the Divine Jesus. This traditional belief became Church doctrine in 1854 by decree of Pope Pius IX. The Church also teaches that it is good to pray to the saints and especially to Mary so they may intercede with God for us in our needs. Mary is also one of the saints, if not the only one whom the Church has documented and verified and has given its approval as to having physically appeared to people on earth. She seems to always have the same message: “Pray for Peace.” The prayer she requests is the Most Holy Rosary and she says if we pray it often enough her son, Jesus, will listen.