By Fr Roderick Salazar Jr SVD (Philippines)
In our calendar we celebrate her birth today,
September 8, although aware that in her life on earth
Mary lived by a different way of telling time.
No September then, nor any of the months
that we know and are familiar with.
But when our present calendar was established by
Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, and adopted eventually
by most of the world, liturgical feasts
were assigned to different months and days.
September 8 was chosen to celebrate the birth
of Mary, Mother of Jesus –Son of God.
When the dogma of the Immaculate Conception
long believed by the Catholic faithful, was
officially declared as dogma by Pope Pius IX
in 1854, the date assigned for the feast was
December 8, nine months before September 8 —
to match the usual way of counting the time
from human conception to birth.
This followed the liturgical reckoning
of the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary
on the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25,
and His birth which we celebrate on December 25.
Today, we sing Happy Birthday, Mother Mary.
On the same day, 145 years ago, in 1875,
in Steyl, Holland, Arnold Janssen officially founded
the religious missionary congregation
Societas Verbi Divini, the Society of the Divine Word.
With Mother Mary, we SVDs,
celebrate our birthday today as well.
Thanks be to God for all the graces we have received.
By His Will, may we continue to be with Him,
as Companions of the Divine Word.
Individually and as a whole congregation we are
to be WITNESS TO THE WORD in all that we do.
We were invited and continue to be called
to BE-WITH-JESUS, to have CHRIST-WITHIN us,
for only then can we become WORD-WITNESS.
How do we do this? How can we continue to remember?
We turn to Mary.
Long before Frank Sinatra or APO Hiking Society
uttered DOO BEE DOO BE DOO in their songs,
Mary had these words in her scant quotes in the Gospel.
Hers, however, were simply DO and BE DONE.
The first time we meet her is in Luke 1, 26-38.
This is the most important moment in human history.
The God who created the heavens and the earth
and the whole universe and all the galaxies,
who created the man and the woman to rule the earth,
who chose the people of Israel to be His people
from whom would be born the Savior of humankind;
this loving God, who already spoke through prophets
and kings about how to live in the way God had planned,
was now going to send His Son to become a human being
Himself. The only way to do that was through a Woman.
Mary is the chosen Woman. Prepared from conception
to be that special person, God would still respect her will.
Through the Archangel Gabriel, Mary is told that she is
the chosen one, who would bear the Son of the Most High
in her womb and deliver Him into the world.
Mary does not understand how, as she is a virgin.
She is told how. Though probably not comprehending
everything she says:
LET IT BE DONE – as you say.
LET IT BE DONE to me according to your word.
As you say, let it happen. I yield. Let it be done.
The first great moment in the life of Mary,
Her most precious reply to God which would
start the process of the Incarnation of the Word.
LET IT BE DONE.
The second moment is in the Gospel of John 2:1-11.
This is the Wedding at Cana.
Jesus is now about to start His Public Life, but not yet.
No quite yet. He attends a wedding with some disciples.
His mother Mary is there as well.
The wine at this wedding feast is getting exhausted,
A big embarrassment for the newly-wed couple.
Mary sees the situation. To whom does she turn?
to Jesus, of course. Once, in the long ago,
an angel had told her that her son would be the
Son of God. Nothing is told in Scripture if in his
growing up at home in Nazareth Jesus ever displayed
His being God by creating things at home.
Still, Mary believed in Him, and tells Him,
“They have no wine.”
Strange to me, and probably to others too,
Jesus answers as though He could not be bothered.
“Woman, how does your concern affect me?
My time has not yet come.”
Rather startling words, huh, from a son to a mother?
Even if the son is already fully-grown?
But those are the words recorded in John.
Is Mary surprised? Does she get angry?
She does not seem to be.
Or at least nothing is told in the Gospel.
Instead, she seems to be supremely confident.
A Filipino way of saying what she did not say would be:
“Basta, sinabi ko na sayo. Bahala ka na!”
And trusting that Jesus would do what He could,
she tells the waiters: DO whatever He tells you.
Might Jesus have said, “Mama naman. Haay.
Sige na nga. Sinabi nyo na. Eh di committed na ako.”
(Again, this is not recorded.)
What is in the Gospel is: FILL THE JARS WITH WATER.
Just that. When the waiters did, and drew from the jars
what they got was WINE, no longer WATER!”
The first recorded miracle by Jesus.
I mentioned some time ago that a poet wrote
about this saying simply:
THE WATERS OF CANA SAW THEIR GOD, and BLUSHED.
(the colorless water had become pink or red wine).
Beyond weddings and miracles, what Mary said to Jesus
in Cana and what she said to Gabriel in Nazareth
form the twin advice of Mary on how to do the will of God.
DO WHATEVER HE SAYS. LET WHAT HE SAYS BE DONE.
DO. BE. DO. BE DONE.
This should be a clear enough guide to God.
But it is not always easy to follow.
Between these two exhortations there are a lot of questions
that Mary herself posed though quietly, and she also
did not have answers immediately.
What we are told is that in those difficult moments,
she pondered on the words or the occasion or the event
silently in her heart. Probably till she understood.
So it should be with us. Still…
There are, to ordinary people like me, certain stings to the words
of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel. At twelve years of age,
He gets lost in Jerusalem and is found
three days later in the temple.
How would it have been for Mary –
to have lost not just your son, But your –GOD.
THE SON OF GOD. And to be told by Him,
”Why did you look for me?
Don’t you know I must be in my Father’s house?”
At thirty years of age, He says,
“Woman, how does your concern affect me?”
Though in both instances, Jesus follows,
the questions before the action, baffle.
Me, at least. So I ask Mary what to do?
And she answers what she says in the Gospel:
Do whatever He tells you. Let whatever He says be done.
In between, if you do not understand, look to your heart.
Ponder. Pray. He is there. He is the answer.
Thank you, dear Mother Mary, Birthday Girl.
Please help me, please help all SVDs
And everyone who calls on you to follow your example.
“On this day, O beautiful Mother
On this day we give thee our love
near thee, Madonna, fondly we hover
trusting they gentle care to prove
On this day we ask to share,
Dearest Mother, thy sweet care
Aid us ere our feet astray
wander from thy guiding way.”