September is a month of great celebration especially for Kerala. As the monsoon eases out, the stage is set for Onam holidays, family weddings and festivities of every sort. Churches all over the world also begin preparations for the grand celebration of the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, popularly called the Nativity of Mother Mary. As circumstances this year restrict us to more subdued online prayers and services, we must find novel ways to pay her a prayerful tribute for the powerful intercessory role she undertakes for us on a daily basis.
Mary is perhaps the ultimate example of womanhood that has sustained itself for more than twenty centuries. Her reflective nature, her humility and her unbelievable emotional strength at the foot of the cross of Jesus have fortified all those who prayed to her for intercession. However, her greatest strength is her deep faith in God, and this was one lesson she explicitly taught humanity, unlike all others, where she led by example.
The stage is set in the second chapter of St John’s gospel during the wedding feast at Cana, where Jesus and His Mother had arrived on invitation. During the wedding, she understood that the wine had run out and her heart went out to the host, who would soon have to face embarrassment and derision. But she did not stop with just being sympathetic. Her Son was with her, the Son whom Angel Gabriel referred to as “the Son of God,” whom Simeon received in his arms in fulfillment of God’s promise to him. Her deep faith which manifested itself in her response to the angel at the Annunciation, as well as in the exultation of the Magnificat, once again asserted itself as she told Jesus ‘They have no wine.’
Jesus had not officially commenced His public ministry then, and He told her that His hour had not yet come. She was unfazed by His reply. In five simple words she spoke to the servants at the house, and, in a broader sense, to all humanity, what faith means and how we can operationalize it in our lives — “Do whatever He tells you.” Subsequently Jesus instructed the servants. As they carried out His instructions, His first miracle of changing water into superior quality wine took place, leaving the host and the chief chef dumbfounded.
However, the significant part of the entire episode is the verbal lesson that Mother Mary taught us. To do as He says, we have to read the Bible to understand what He desires of every Christian. Once we understand, we have to put it into practice. This is the hard part, but with our desire to follow His Word, the Holy Spirit is always there to help us forward in faith.
The incidents at Cana point to another significant aspect of faith which Mother Mary knew about. Faith has the power to induce the Lord to change His mind. In the Old Testament, we see how the faith of Abraham and Moses saved the people from God’s wrath, time and again. Similarly, in the New Testament, Cana is symbolic of a people who willingly followed His path. Inspite of the fact that He was initially not disposed to performing any miracle there, the faith of His people made Him change His mind. They obeyed His instructions implicitly.
Other incidents in the Bible also corroborate these facts. The encounter of Jesus with the Canaanite woman who begged for a miracle to save her daughter from her demonic possession is well known. Jesus first refused to get involved, but the deep faith she expressed in all humility had the power to change His decision. The opposite also rings true in the Bible. When Jesus returned to Nazareth (Mathew 13), He was unable to perform any miracle there because of their lack of faith.
Thus, the Blessed Virgin Mary was instrumental in teaching us about faith, by word and by example. She continues to help us nurture our faith. As we celebrate her birthday this year, let us offer her our best tribute by doing whatever He has told us. Let us reflect on His Word, and grow in faith together, in order to become worthy of the most wonderful promises of Christ.