On Saturdays in what is called “ordinary time”, when there is no obligatory feast to be celebrated, we can offer a special votive Mass for the Blessed Virgin Mary. The readings of the day lend themselves perfectly for this – as well as the observance of October as the month of the Holy Rosary.
Today’s short gospel reading presents us with perhaps the first fulfillment of Mary’s own prophesy in her famous canticle of praise, the Magnificat: “All generations shall call me blessed!”
When I was preparing for this homily, I googled “Charismatics and Mary” on the internet to see what I would find. And, while I had several “hits”, I came across one from a non-Catholic site, actually an anti-Catholic site, that did not have much good to say about Mary, or about Charismatics. In fact, whoever wrote this particular webpage was bemoaning the fact that, and I quote, “the Charismatic experience does not draw Catholics to the truth but confirms their Catholic doctrine”.
Now this poor writer was certainly confused about the truth – for the fullness of the truth about Christ is found only in Catholic doctrine; but thankfully for the Church and for Catholic Charismatics, his general observations, which he regrets, is nonetheless true “the Charismatic experience for Catholics has confirmed their Catholic doctrine”. And it is precisely for this reason that the Popes – Paul VI, John Paul II, and now Benedict XVI – have, through the discernment of the Spirit that their office has charged them with, found the charismatic movement to be a great blessing for the Church and for the individual Catholics who have found in the movement a true renewal of their baptismal faith and their vocation to holiness that is founded in their baptism.
And why has this been? I would venture to say that is because the Renewal, as the Catholic Charismatic Movement is also known, has always been – it is best expressions – deeply Marian. Devotion to Mary keeps us as Christians close to Christ – and devotion to Mary, in the Renewal, has kept charismatics close to Christ’s Church, the Church founded on the Rock who is Peter.
It is certainly fitting that Mary be called the first Christian – for she was the first one to follow Christ – saying “yes” to Christ from the Annunciation to her Assumption into heaven. But, would she have been the first Christian if she was not at the same time the first charismatic? – For as the angel announced to her – when she gave her “fiat” – her “yes”, the Holy Spirit came upon her and overshadowed her.
And so, in fulfillment of the prophecy of the Magnificat, a woman cries out to Jesus: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you”. Now Jesus does not reject the warm praise this good lady showers upon his mother. He accepts it and goes further: for Mary, his mother, is blessed because she has been good and faithful in putting the word of God into practice.
If Mary was blessed only because of having given birth to Jesus and having nursed him – if that was the sum total of her blessedness – she would not be able to be for us a model for us to imitate and follow. For Christ was born in the flesh only once. What makes such a mother as Mary blessed and worthy of our imitation are not the pains of labor but her way of obedience which is the obedience of faith, for it is through faith that we are born into life in Christ. The attitude of Mary’s soul is revealed throughout her life, through her continuous “yes” to God from the moment the Word became flesh in her womb to the moment when she cradled his broken Body in her arms when he was taken down from the cross.
This obedience of faith, this humble submission to God’s will exemplified in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary must be imitated by all who would “belong to Christ” and therefore hope to be counted among all those who are blessed “because they hear the Word of God and keep it”. Per Mariam ad Jesum: Through Mary, to Jesus. As she did at the marriage feast of Cana, she teaches us to listen to Jesus and to obey him. To correct our anti-Catholic critic that I found in cyber space: “the Charismatic experience guided by Mary does not only draw Catholics to the truth but also confirms their Catholic doctrine”.
To the extent that the Charismatic Renewal remains deeply Marian, the Renewal will be protected from forces of error and division that have characterized some other movements in the history of the Church that in their zeal to reform the Church have actually broken with her.
In today’s first reading, St. Paul tells the Galatians – and through them, he tells us: “For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.” This faith is not something we arrive at by our own willing it, nor is it an entitlement of race or class or economic station: it is a gift of the Spirit that brings Christ to life in our own hearts and souls and makes us all, despite our diversity, “one in Christ Jesus”. This is a gift that we must, like Mary, always say “yes” to.