To Jesus through Mary | A Homily by St. Josemaria Escriva
If we look at the world, at the People of God, during this month of May, we will see devotion to our Lady taking the form of many old and new customs practiced with great love. It makes me very happy to see that this devotion is always alive, awakening in Christians a supernatural desire to act as “members of God’s household.”
Seeing how so many Christians express their affection for the Virgin Mary, surely you also feel more a part of the Church, closer to those brothers and sisters of yours. It is like a family reunion. Grown-up children, whom life has separated, come back to their mother for some family anniversary. And even if they have not always got on well together, today things are different; they feel united, sharing the same affection.
Mary continually builds the Church and keeps it together. It is difficult to have devotion to our Lady and not feel closer to the other members of the mystical body and more united to its visible head, the pope. That’s why I like to repeat: All with Peter to Jesus through Mary! By seeing ourselves as part of the Church and united to our brothers in the faith, we understand more deeply that we are brothers of all mankind, for the Church has been sent to all the peoples of the earth.
My own experience and yours are proof of the effects of sincere devotion to our Lady. I remember how in 1933 I went to visit a shrine in Spain, the shrine of our Lady of Sonsoles. It wasn’t a pilgrimage in the normal sense: nothing noisy or elaborate, just three of us. I respect and love public demonstrations of devotion, but I must admit I prefer to offer Mary the same affection, the same enthusiasm, in private visits or with very few people — a more intimate sort of thing.
During that visit to Sonsoles I was told the origin of the name of the shrine. The statue had been hidden during the wars between Christians and Moslems in Spain, and after a number of years it was found by shepherds. According to the story, when they saw it they exclaimed: “What beautiful eyes; they are suns!” [Spanish: son soles].
Since 1933, during many visits to shrines of our Lady, I have often reflected and meditated on the wonderful affection which so many Christians have for the Mother of Jesus. And I have always seen it as a response of love, of filial love and thanksgiving to our Lady, a sign of a child’s affection. For Mary is closely tied to the greatest sign of God’s love — the Word made flesh who took upon himself our sins and weakness. Faithful to the divine purpose for which she was born, Mary continues to spend herself in the service of men, who are all called to be brothers of her son Jesus. The Mother of God is also truly the mother of men.
Our Lord wanted it to be this way. So that future generations might know it, the Holy Spirit inspired St John to write:
“Now there were standing by the cross of Jesus his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus, therefore, saw his mother and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he said to his mother ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”
John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, brought Mary into his home, into his life. Spiritual writers have seen these words of the Gospel as an invitation to all Christians to bring Mary into their lives. Mary certainly wants us to invoke her, to approach her confidently, to appeal to her as our mother, asking her to “show that you are our mother.”
But she is a mother who anticipates our requests. Knowing our needs, she comes quickly to our aid. If we recall that God’s mercies come to us through the hands of our Lady, each of us can find many reasons for feeling that Mary is our mother in a very special way.
The Gospel passages about our Lady show her as the Mother of Jesus, following her Son step by step, playing a part in his redemptive mission, rejoicing and suffering with him, loving those whom Jesus loves, looking after all those around her with maternal care.
Just think, for example, of the marriage at Cana. Our Lady was a guest at one of those noisy country weddings attended by crowds of people from many different villages. But she was the only one who noticed the wine was running out. Don’t these scenes from Christ’s life seem familiar to us? The greatness of God lives at the level of ordinary things. It is natural for a woman, a housewife, to notice something was lacking, to look after the little things which make life pleasant. And that is how Mary acted. Notice also that it is John who tells the story of Cana. He is the only evangelist who has recorded this example of our mother’s concern for us. St John wants us to remember that Mary was present at the beginning of the public life of our Lord. He alone has appreciated the importance of that fact. Jesus knew to whom he was entrusting his Mother — to a disciple who had learned to understand and love her as his own mother.
Let’s turn now to the days between the ascension and Pentecost. As a result of the triumph of Christ’s resurrection, the disciples are full of faith; they eagerly await the promised Holy Spirit. They want to stay close to one another, and so we find them “with Mary, the mother of Jesus,” praying as a single family.
It was St Luke who related this fact, the evangelist who gave us the longest account of Jesus’ childhood. It is as if he wanted us to understand that just as Mary had a major role in the incarnation of the Word, she was intimately involved in the beginning of the Church, Christ’s body.
From the first moment of the Church all Christians who have sought the love of God — that love revealed in Jesus Christ — have encountered our Lady and experienced her motherly care. She can truly be called the Mother of Christians. As St Augustine puts it: “With her charity she cooperates in the birth of faithful to the Church and they are members of a head, of which she is effectively Mother in the flesh.”
It is not surprising then that one of the oldest witnesses to this devotion to Mary is confident prayer: “We gather under your protection, holy Mother of God. Do not reject the prayers we say to you in our need, but save us from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.”
“To Jesus through Mary” is an excerpt from the homily given by St Josemaria Escriva on May 4, 1957. The homily is published by Scepter Publishers in the book “Christ is Passing By”.