August 22, 2012

Mary, Our Queen

Blessed John Paul II's Marian Devotion was a profound part of his life.  Part of this has to do with the Marian dimension of Polish Culture, a profoundly contemplative and family oriented culture.  Centuries ago, the people of Poland in fact entrusted their nation to Mary's Queenship and one finds throughout Poland all kinds of wonderful shrines and miraculous images dedicated to her. 

True devotion to Mary leads us into a deeper following of Christ.  As his spiritual life and theological understanding matured, a certain mystery puzzled Karol Wojtyla in his young adulthood.  He did not question the fact that the Virgin Mother is present in the Christian life to lead us into a deeper relationship with her Son.  The Holy Scriptures witness to her own words that she magnifies the Lord and that she exhorts us "to do whatever He tells you."  Her words echoed in his own prayerlife.  What astounded him, instead, was the fact Jesus entrusted his Mother to his disciples.  Why should Jesus give us his own Mother?

This Sunday, we will listen to the last reading from John 6, the Bread of Life discourse.  In this last part of the discourse Christ's followers complain that His claim that He is the Bread of Life, a new kind of Bread that nourishes unto eternally life.  They balk at His command to eat His flesh and drink His blood.  Jesus responds that they could not come to Him unless the Father allowed them to do so. The passage explains that many of his followers went away and returned to their former way of lfie.  

The Gospel presents us with a defining decision about what to believe and how to live. To return to our former way of life, the way we lived before we encountered Christ, this is to step out of the story of the Gospel - so those who do so are mentioned no more, they are no more part of the Gospel, they do not live in the mystery of welcoming the mystery.   Yet even these followers who reject Christ without realizing it reveal something about the greatness of the Father's gift to us.

The Father knew they would not accept His Son, yet He offered them a gift anyway.   In spurning His gift to them, they have rejected Him but at the same time revealed the love of the Father is not daunted by our hostility to Him.  The Father is ready, with His Son, to suffer our rejection and hostility.  Thus, even when those who do not reject Jesus at first later abandon and betray Him, the Father does not abandon them. 

In the face of our hostility to Him, why should the Father give us his Son?  The answer to the Pope's question and the answer to the question the Gospel of John proposes coincide in the words of St. Peter,  "Lord, to whom else can we go? .. we have come to believe..." 

To believe, to have faith, this is to say "yes" to everything the Father wills to give us.  This means we must welcome Jesus as our spiritual nourishment, as the only One who can sustain us on our journey to the Father's house.  We also must welcome everything Jesus wants to give us -- His whole humanity: His Body, His Blood, even His Mother.  We must welcome the maternal role of this Queen Mother in our lives because her spiritual maternity opens us even more to the mystery of the Father's love. 

What a remarkable love is revealed in Christ!  The divine love of the Trinity gives what is most beloved in the Father's heart - His Son.   He gives this gift to those He knows will reject it, betray it, deny it, abandon it.  He still believes in us so much He gives His Son to us anyway.   Jesus gives his Mother with the same kind of trust He reveals the Father has in us, a trust that knows full well what we are capable of doing with his Handmaid in our weakness.  She in fact is a sign of the Church, a sign Christ has entrusted to us undaunted by our inadequacies and weaknesses.  Jesus gives us his Mother just like He has given us his Church of whom she is the living icon.

What is it to celebrate the Queenship of Mary, to say yes to the gift she is to us from Jesus?  We who believe in the Risen Savior, who accept his Lordship in our lives, not only need to accept the nourishment only He can give and the gift of his Mother whom He entrusts to us, we must also love as He has loved us --- so that when the love we offer others is rejected, spurned, hated, denied, and betrayed, we do not stop loving, but we must continue to love and trust like God - yes, this is why He has given to us so generously.  Because the Mother Christ gave to us on the Cross opens our hearts to this astounding mystery, together with all of heaven how can we not call her Queen?