Monday, May 25, 2020

Mary is our example of how to wait for the Holy Spirit in our lives.

With the great feast of Pentecost coming in a week, the tradition of our Church has always been to be in a state of preparation for its arrival, not unlike the way the Church has the season of Advent to prepare us for the arrival of the child Jesus at Christmas. In many ways, it is like another Christmas, because it too marks how humanity has been graced by the entry of God right into its heart.  Whilst Christmas marks how God comes to humanity in a human form, Pentecost marks how God comes to us in his essence, which is love.

In the opening chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, which really is the book of the Holy Spirit, we see the setting in which the seminal church, made up of the apostles together with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus gathered in the upper room. Mary’s presence in that group is extremely significant, but not for the reasons that many may think.  

For the apostles, their gathering in that room showed that they all, as a whole, still required the heart of God, which is the Holy Spirit, to come upon them and fill them with the zeal, fire, verve and power that only the Holy Spirit can give, before the church could make its first baby steps toward growth, maturity and flourishing.  It makes total sense that they needed to receive the Holy Spirit in that united way.  But this cannot be the same reason that Mary is there.  Ostensibly, Mary’s reason for being there was the same as that for the apostles, but it only looks that way from its appearance.  Intrinsically, her reasons were very different, and my reasons to say this unequivocally is listed below, though I am sure if the Holy Spirit were to further inspire me, the list would be much longer.

1.   Mary was already filled with the Holy Spirit long before this gathering took place.

I think we easily forget that right there in their midst in the upper room was someone who had the plenitude of the Holy Spirit in her, one whom the Angel Gabriel hailed as being “full of grace”, and that was at least 33 years before the upper room gathering took place.  Now, unless Mary suddenly had a lapse of her holy memory, her function and role there in that room was one that was significantly different from the other 11.  But we can be sure that Mary wasn’t suddenly having a ‘brain fog’ moment.  So why was she there?

2.   This was one of Mary’s first roles as the Mother of the Church

From the Cross of Calvary, Mary was given to the world as its universal mother.  In a very significant way, the motherhood of Mary over the entire church has a very strong emphasis and link with suffering and the high price of love. If we think about it, Jesus could have given Mary over to John and all of us at so many other moments of his earthly life.  Surely there were good times when things went swimmingly well, like when the wine was flowing in abundance from those huge ablution jars at the wedding at Cana, or when there was such a mountain of leftovers from the multiplication of loaves and fish on that amazing day.  Those would have been excellent and fortuitous settings to give Mary to us as our mother.  Yet, God’s plans have shown to be so unlike ours.

From the Cross, God gives Mary, his most beloved and most beautiful human being he ever created to us, and that moment was also Mary’s darkest and caused her heart to be rent asunder.  It is no wonder that one of her most significant titles is that of Mother of Sorrows.  Couched in this title is the fact that in our dark moments, in our most fearful moments, in our most timid moments in life, Mary is right there with us as well, just as she was with those timid, fearful 11 disciples of her son. Her role in that room was not to receive the Holy Spirit’s power and energy.  She was there as their mother- a mother who stays by and stays with her children when they are quaking in their boots, and one who gives her motherly care by her maternal presence and who assures us of her love when it is needed most.

3.   Mary was going to reveal just how amazing her spouse was.

Among her many titles, Mary is also called the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, the person who covered her with his shadow at the annunciation and enabled this delicate and fragile flower to be the soil that would receive the seed of God to be eventually nourished and grown to become the Word incarnate.  All the while, up to this moment, the world hadn’t encountered her silent spouse, but this was the moment of revelation where there would be others apart from her who will now have an experience of this divine spouse of hers, and in that way, have a share in the kind of inner joy and peace that enabled Mary to stand so courageously through the times when God’s ways seemed so indeterminate, concealed and even hidden.  Every woman who has a spouse who is noble, strong, courageous and virtuous is naturally proud to show him to others.  She is proud of her spouse, not in a prideful way, but a healthy pride that causes one to beam.  As much as this is the Holy Spirit’s moment, it is in a very discreet way, Mary’s moment. She stands not in the spotlight, but steps aside to let her spouse take centre-stage.  

4.   Mary is not diminished in sharing her spouse’s love.

Many spouses are inclined to have an inward looking and exclusive relationship.  Certainly, the church has always taught that married spouses need to keep a certain dimension of their marriage very exclusive and only to be shared between themselves, and rightly so.  This is where the analogy of Mary’s spousal relationship with the Holy Spirit reaches a limitation insofar as we use earthly marriage as the analogue.  

In Mary’s spousal relationship with the Holy Spirit, there is no weakening of the love relationship that she has with God when the Pentecost event happened.  In fact, the opposite happens – the more her children are filled with the same Holy Spirit, and become enamoured with God’s essence of love, the more Mary’s role as the Holy Spirit’s spouse and her role as our Mother bears fruit and becomes fulfilled.  Love is always going to find growth something to be celebrated rather than something to be envious of.  

We mustn’t let these few days that usher in the feast of Pentecost just go by without creating a space in our hearts for the Holy Spirit to set them on fire.  There is a familiar phrase that we often hear in Catholic hymnals where we ask God to enkindle in us the fire of his love.  Those who have had the experience of starting a fire in the wild without matches or a lighter would know that kindling is key to making fire. What is kindling but flammable material, often things like lint, grass, wood shards of tree bark, gatherings of tiny bits of feathers or leaves.  Most importantly, they have to be dry.  The drier, the better.  This will allow the tiniest sparks caused by the friction of twigs rubbed against each other to set the kindling alight and begin the process of turning a tiny, incipient flame as small as that found on top of a birthday cake candle, to become something as huge as a raging and roaring blaze.  

God only needs the kindling of our hearts, prepared on our part by keeping it dry and ready, with the moisture of sin kept away so that our hearts can be set ablaze by the fire of his love.  Mary our mother stands ready by her beloved children to have this happen, with her immaculate heart already aflame with her maternal and virginal love.  

Mary, mother of sorrows and spouse of the Holy Spirit, pray for us as we await the Pentecostal fire of God's eternal love.

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