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Through Mary to Jesus
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
In todays confused world, it is not an idle question to ask: What is a Catholic? A simple answer would be: A Catholic is a Christian who believes we are to go to Jesus through Mary.
Suppose we concentrate on the single phrase, through Mary. Any light we can shed on the meaning of this familiar Catholic term will be profitable.
When we say through Mary, to Jesus, we mean that:
To better understand what these phrases mean, is to more deeply appreciate what it means to be a Catholic. We are so accustomed to thinking that what God wants, He also does, that we have to tell ourselves this must be qualified.
There are two kinds of creatures in this world:
In order to teach us this most important lesson in life, that God wants us to do His will voluntarily, He did not become Incarnate without human cooperation. At the Annunciation, Mary represented the whole human race with whom God wished to join Himself, as the Church says, in marriage. God asked Mary to consent. She did. And by her consent, Jesus the Son of God became the Son of Mary.
If Jesus was conceived and born into the world because of Mary, He also best reflects His virtues for us to imitate in the person of His Mother.
What are we saying? We are saying that when God became man, He not only used her body, so to speak, to take on our humanity, He also used her soul to manifest the attributes of His divinity.
We should expect, in human language, Christ who is the Incarnate God, to be all holy. But Mary was not divine; she was not infinite; she was not the Creator. She was human like us, finite like us, and a creature like us. That is why Mary is so profoundly imitable. We can identify with her humanity and see that we, too, although pathetically human, have a chance to become holy.
Unlike Mary, we were not conceived without sin. But we may legitimately aspire to die without sin. Moreover, like Mary, we are to become holy. It must be possible. Why? Because what God did in Mary, He can also, though in lesser measure, do in us.
All the while we should remind ourselves that like us, Mary had to live by faith. Unlike Christ, she did not enjoy the vision of God. She had to believe, as Elizabeth told us, that the promises God made to her would be fulfilled. Mary is the living refutation of the myth that human nature, mere human nature, is capable of great virtue.
We need this reassurance in our day, when all around us there is so much lust and cruelty, so much crude self- esteem and pride, so much cowardice in high places and so much forgetfulness of God. Humanity is not to be despaired of, in ourselves or in others. It is made for heaven, and therefore holiness, as the goodness of Mary demonstrates.
In the Paradiso, the poet Dante addresses our Lady: Thou art she who didst mans substance glorify. So that its own maker did not fear, even to be made of its mortality. Yes, Mary glorified our humanity; she has also given us hope. We dare not despair of our own future sanctity, seeing what marvels God has produced in Marys humanity.
The holier a person is the more effective is that persons prayer, and Mary is the Queen of all saints. The closer a person is to Christ, the more certainly He hears that persons prayer. And Mary could not have been closer to the One she carried for nine months, gave Him birth, and reared Him as man, for the Redemption of the world.
The more sublime the office in the Church to which a person is chosen, the more effective channel of grace that person becomes. But Mary has no mere office in the Church. When Christ on the Cross told John, Behold thy Mother, John represented al1 of us. And when the Savior told her, Behold thy son, He made her the Mother of us all. She therefore has more than just influence over her Son, to persuade Him, so to speak, to grant us what we need. She is the divinely chosen Mother of divine grace, Virgin most powerful, Cause of our joy, House of gold, Gate of heaven, Refuge of Sinners and Help of Christians; all titles by which we are told to invoke her, because that is what she is.
Is it any wonder the Church has us say what must sound like an impossible prayer, the Memorare, We pray, Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, and sought thy intercession was left unaided. This is the infallible Church teaching us to trust that Mary will never forsake those who call upon her aid, but will infallibly and successfully present their needs to her Divine Son.
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