Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
June 4, 2001
Mary: A sign of things to come
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Two thousand years after Mary walked, prayed and suffered in Israel, we still pay attention to this woman.
Indeed, the cult of Mary has become increasingly important in the Roman Catholic Church, even if in recent decades in the Western world, it has seemed to decline. Mary's prophecy in her Magnificat that "all generations will call me blessed for the Almighty has done great things for me" has come true beyond what she could have imagined.
But why? Why do we continue to care so much about this woman when it is Jesus who is the true source of salvation - the way, the truth and the life? Mary is just a human being.
Oh, but what a human being! If we want to know our own destiny, we need only look to Mary. She was taken bodily into heaven and now, with her Son, she rules the universe as the Queen of Heaven.
To many, this will sound like too much. Earlier in this series of articles, I spoke of the Holy Spirit as "quasi-incarnate" in Mary and now I note that the Church calls her Queen of Heaven. This seems too much to say about a human being. It seems to verge on idolatry.
But this is nothing more than what God has promised to all of us who walk in his ways. To the Church at Thyatira, Jesus says. "To him who is victorious (over Satan), to him who perseveres in doing my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations - that same authority which I received from my Father - and he shall rule them with an iron rod" (Revelation 2:26-27). God's faithful followers will have the same kingly power that Jesus possesses.
The Apostle John wrote, "We are God's children: What we shall be has not yet been disclosed, but we know that when it is disclosed, we shall be like him" (1 John 3:2).
We tend to downplay or overlook the power of Scriptural references to the children of God. The Bible does not say that we are like children of God, but that we are God's children. Through Baptism, we are divinized, we become the same sort of being as God.
The Fathers of the Church were clear on this point. St. Athanasius said, "The Son of God became man so that we might become God." St. Leo the Great told the baptized, "You share in God's own nature."
So the Church's claims about Mary represent the Church's exalted teaching on human dignity. Theologians sometimes refer to Mary as "the eschatological icon of the Church." This just means that what Mary is today we will become in the future. Mary is now queen of the universe; all the saved will someday be rulers of the world in union with God.
The Second Vatican Council taught this explicitly when it said: "the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise, she shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim people of God."
This says so much about what our devotion to Mary should be. We ought to give Mary utmost respect, but not worship. We ought to see her as a "prayer partner" who unites us with the Holy Spirit, takes our needs to her Son and helps in the battle against evil.
We will follow the advice that Mary gave to the servants at Cana: " Do whatever he tells you." We will see her life of humble discipleship, trust and obedience as the embodiment of the Beatitudes and we will strive to imitate her. We will see her as the mother of the poor and find ways to draw near to those that society has forgotten or neglected.
Through Mary, we will come to know and live with Jesus.
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