Reflection: Why We Honor Mary

by Father Don Thomas

 

Throughout the centuries, the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, has certainly been a source of much discussion and controversy. I do feel, however, that the failure to recognize her importance in salvation history is due, in great part, to misunderstanding and failure on the part of many to search the Scriptures and focus on some very important, inspired words as recorded in Luke' gospel (LK 1:46-55). It is there that we find the "Magnificat" as spoken by Mary on the occasion of her visit to her cousin, Elizabeth. Elizabeth was pregnant with the little boy, John, who would turn out to be the forerunner or precursor of Jesus Christ Himself. He was the one who would baptize Christ.

Charges or accusations have been leveled against Catholics for thinking or believing that Mary is some kind of a goddess because of all the devotion or attention they direct to her. Mention is often made of all the shrines, the novenas, the rosary and the apparitions involving the Virgin Mary. In fact, to put it even more clearly, Catholics are often accused of paying more attention to Mary than they do to Christ, her Son, and they have been doing this for hundreds of years.

The beautiful prayer that we call the "Magnificat", when studied carefully and honestly, provides many answers to those who propose the above objections or questions. In the very first verse Mary says her soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God her Savior. If Mary considers God her Savior, that means she understood that she had to be saved, and in no way did she ever imply that she was equal to God or did not need His help.

On the contrary, as one continues to read the second verse of the Magnificat, they hear her saying that "He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is His Name". She gives all the credit to God. Others who have not understood the role of Mary through the years would do well to read the closing lines of the Magnificat where she says that " henceforth, from now on all generations will call me blessed". That is why Catholics call her the Blessed Virgin Mary, and since we are the generations at the present time, it is fitting, that we look upon her, as special because God Himself thought she was special. To be selected from all the women of the world certainly is a great honor.

The Church's position on devotion to Mary is based on Scripture and on the fact that God picked her to be the mother of His Son. That, incidentally, is the answer to the problem or difficulty that some people have with Catholics calling Mary the Mother of God. It certainly is not because she is the mother of the Triune God. It is because Jesus is both human and divine, and if Jesus is God, we ask; "who was His mother"? The answer is obvious, hence the title "Mother of God". In concluding this reflection, it might be helpful to note that when we praise a work of art as the best in a gallery filled with paintings, and the artist is standing right there, the artist is not going to be offended or jealous.

On the other hand, the artist will be delighted because in praising the painting, we are actually praising the artist, because that painting is the object of his creation, the result of long, hard work.Likewise, when we honor and love our parents or our neighbors, it is the same situation. We are not taking anything away from God, but on the other hand, in honoring them we are honoring God because they are the object of His creation. All of this is true and relevant, whether we are talking about the Virgin Mary, all the other Saints, our parents or neighbors. In loving all people, we are loving God Himself, and is another reason why you cannot separate love of God from love of neighbor, anymore than you can separate "heads from tails" on a coin. They go together. God called love of God and love of neighbor the greatest of all the commandments. This is illustrated clearly in honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

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