2000 years ago a young peasant Jewish girl faced a dilemma. An angel appeared, told her she was thought highly of by God and would become the mother of the Saviour of the world if she said Yes.
That for me is what Mary is for today. Someone who is faced with rejection by her family, someone who faces rejection from the man she was betrothed to, someone who faces the possibility of becoming a young single mother, someone who faces being stigmatised as being of low moral standards, indeed someone who faces the possibility of death – yet she says Yes.
She faces the dangers and still trusts in God.
There has always been a danger in Catholicism – of whatever shade – of making Mary into a sort of God. I don’t want to raise the old arguments about the suitability of saying prayers, or singing hymns to Mary. But I do want to talk of the danger of sanitising Mary, – making her clean and respectable, losing her humanity.
I recently encountered some photographs of a church at their May devotion this year. It was obviously a joyous occasion, but, full of tat. There were yards of lace on the altar, on the servers cottas, on the celebrants albs. Clouds of incense arose. There were so many relics and candles on the altar that one could hardly see the chalice and paten.
Some Methodist friends of mine visited Walsingham a couple of years ago, and I asked them how they had found it. Prayerful and spiritual came their reply – but, full of tat. Not surprising for Methodists to say that, but, it is a comment we need to take to heart.
Is Mary for today about turning back the clock to a bygone age? Or is it about the revolutionary ideals which prompted Mary’s yes to God? Mary’s song, the Magnificat, is about revolution.
Today is a Day with Mary. A Walsingham day. Today, what does the teenage pregnant woman of 2000 years ago say and do for the teenager pregnant today, the teenage mother frightened of her boyfriend’s and family’s reaction?
What does that teenage woman frightened of the consequences say to those on the margins of today’s society – the homeless, those stigmatised as “feckless” by the government, those unable to find work, the alcoholic and drug addict, the young gay man thrown out by his family, the women and men trafficked into the sex trade of our cities?
What does the woman who had to flee from Herod’s wrath and become a refugee say to the asylum seekers today?
What does the woman who watched her Son dying a hideous death, and who cradled his dead body in her arms say to the bereaved families and friends following Monday’s attack, to those suffering now as a consequence of a cruel and selfish act?
What does she say to you and I as people of God here in Thy Kingdom Come novena week?
She actually says nothing in words, but she speaks thousands in her actions. It is said by her obedience to the will of God. Thy Will be done Thy Kingdom Come.
Be it unto me according to thy word we say it so frequently when we recite the Angelus. We recall Mary’s “Yes” – but her message today is for us to embrace it.
Mary says YES! her message today is for us to embrace that.
Pray for the courage to follow her example. That is what I feel is Mary for us today.
Mary for today is in the squalor of a stable, in the worried mother who can’t find her son for the crowd, in the woman who tells the servants to do as he tells you at Cana, in the agonising woman cradling her dead son in her arms – and in all of this being faithful to God.
Mary is truly someone to honour and to ask for prayer in our weakness and for our society today, because she knows only too well that which presses on us today.
So let us enjoy our worship today, sing with joy about Mary, pray with confidence that God’s Kingdom may come.