Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments.
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
We are in the middle of the month of May and for many of us it is a month characterized by the celebration of First Communion; the excitement of high school proms; the wait for summer vacation to begin; the start of afternoon rains. May is also the “Month of Mary”. The Church honors her as the Mother of God, looks to her as a model of perfect discipleship, and asks for her prayers to God on our behalf. Many forms of piety toward the Mother of God developed that help bring us closer to her Son. In these devotionals, we remember her extraordinary fiat to bring forth God’s love on this earth through the birth of His only begotten Son, Jesus. By her fiat, she fulfills a crucial role in salvation history.
What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ. Throughout the centuries, the Church has turned to the Blessed Virgin to come closer to Christ. As the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary has a unique position among the saints, indeed, among all creatures. She is exalted, yet still one of us. She is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Pope Francis’ devotion to our Blessed Mother is well-known. In early March of this year, Pope Francis decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church be celebrated every year on the Monday after Pentecost (May 21, 2018). The decree states that the promotion of this devotion might encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of Marian piety.
“This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed, the Virgin who makes her offering to God.”
The decree observes that the veneration of Mary as Mother of the Church has ancient roots in Catholic tradition, reaching back to St. Augustine and St. Leo the Great. The title, the document says, is rooted in New Testament accounts about Mary. “She became the tender Mother of the Church which Christ begot on the cross, handing on the Spirit,” says the decree. “Christ in turn, in the beloved disciple, chose all disciples as ministers of His love towards His Mother, entrusting her to them so that they might welcome her with filial affection.”
Bishop Thomas Grady, the second bishop of the Diocese of Orlando, wrote a beautiful poem, Mary, Symbol of the Church, and speaks to her as a “handmaid, coming to serve; providing the word and bread and wine, Theotokos, bearer of life.” Mary showed us, through her service to God, how to remain in His love. She laid aside her existence to do the will of the Father, just as her Son laid aside His divine existence to do the will of His Father. As Mary is our example, we too must be attentive to and accepting of God’s will each day through prayer and our connection with God. She expressed His love by her acceptance of the Cross. She gave the very heart of her heart to God.
May we welcome the divine Lover into our heart, that we remain in His love. May we follow in the gentle, yet firm “yes” of the Mother of the Church, to bear His love that the world may come to know God.