Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Some Important Lessons That Mary Taught Jesus

Mary teaching Jesus

(Mary, the Mother of God 2020: This homily was given on January 1, 2020 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 67:2-8; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Mary, the Mother of God 2020]

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior was a divine Person, but he had a human as well as a divine nature.  As Scripture puts it he was “a man like us in all things but sin.”  As God, therefore, Jesus knew all things.  But as man, he did not.  Which means that Jesus, in his human nature, needed to be taught.  He needed to be educated.  He needed to learn the basic, fundamental truths of human existence.  Fortunately our Lord had excellent teachers—the very best of teachers—who did a fantastic job.  Those teachers were, of course, Mary and Joseph, his mother and his foster father.  And we know they did a great job because of what St. Luke says at the end of his infancy narrative.  He writes, “Jesus progressed steadily in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.” 

Since this is her feast day, in preparing for this homily I reflected specifically on Mary and her influence on Jesus during his formative years.  And I said to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great to know the specifics?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know exactly what the Blessed Mother taught her Son during those early years of his life—the years between the finding in the Temple and the beginning of his ministry?  Now my first thought was, “That’s impossible.  Since the Bible is silent about our Lord’s life between the ages of 12 and 30, there’s no way we can ever know what Mary taught him.”  But then I took a look at Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat, in chapter 1 of the Gospel of Luke, and I said, “Wait a minute—this is it—it’s all here!  This must be what the Blessed Mother taught her Son.  These were her most precious beliefs: these ideas she shared with her cousin Elizabeth at the Visitation.  So they must be the principles—the beliefs—that she shared over and over again with her Son.” 

All that having been said, let’s look briefly at what these beliefs are, because I think in doing so we will all be challenged.  Parents, as I go through these ask yourselves, “Are these some of the lessons that I’m trying to instill in my children?  And those who are not parents, ask yourselves, “Are these the lessons that I’m trying to share with my friends, with my co-workers, with my fellow students, with the people God has placed in my life?”  If we want to help our children and other people become more like Jesus Christ, then it seems to me we should be following Mary’s example and sharing these truths with them as often as possible. 

Mary says in the first line of the Magnificat, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my savior.”  Lesson # 1 from Mary to Jesus concerned the meaning of life: “Jesus, my Son, the meaning of life is to know, to love and to serve God.  That’s what’s most important.  That’s where you’ll find your joy, that’s where you’ll find your peace.”

Mary continues, “For [God] has looked with favor on his lowly servant.  From this day all generations will call me blessed.  The almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.”  Lesson # 2 from Mary to Jesus concerned what God had done for her personally.  Mary had a deep awareness of how the Lord had worked in her life and she wasn’t afraid to talk about it.  She wasn’t afraid to witness to her faith, as so many Catholics and other Christians are today.  And that boldness in sharing her personal testimony made her teaching much more effective.  You see, she didn’t just say, “Jesus, read this book of the Bible and learn about God.”  Mary said, “Son, read this book of the Bible, and then I’ll tell you how the God you read about there has touched my life.”  Personal testimonies like that are very powerful.  I remember teaching a Confirmation class here a number of years ago, and I asked some our older teenagers who had gone to the Steubenville youth conference and who came to youth group regularly to come that night and share their personal stories with the Confirmation students—their stories about how God had changed their lives.  Well, you could have heard a pin drop in that hall during those talks.  (Imagine, fifty or so teenagers actually paying attention to people giving talks about God and faith!)  But it was not coincidental.  They were paying attention because some of their peers were saying to them, “Look, God is real, and this is how I’ve personally experienced him.”  That’s the power of personal testimony.  As Catholics we need to use that power more often—like Mary did.

Mary then says, “God has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.”  Lesson # 3 from Mary to Jesus: “Son, God is merciful, and God is consistent.  He doesn’t change his mind from one minute to the next.”

She goes on, “God has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.”  Lesson # 4 from Mary to our Lord: “Son, God is just—completely just. So never, ever seek revenge.  Because in the end, God will balance the scales perfectly.”

“He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.”  Lesson # 5:  “Jesus, don’t ever become hungry for power.  It will ultimately destroy you.”  That’s a lesson our Lord would later apply in his famous encounter with Satan.  Remember?  The devil in effect said to him, “Jesus, I’ll give you control over every kingdom in this world—I’ll give you all that power.  Just fall down and worship me.”  Our Lord answered, “Away with you, Satan, Scripture says, ‘You shall do homage to the Lord your God; him alone shall you adore.’”  Thank you, Mary, for instilling that idea in your Son as a young boy.

Mary goes on, “God has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty.  Lesson # 6 from Mary to her Son:  “Don’t be materialistic.  Don’t set your hopes on the things of this world, because sooner or later they will all pass away.”

And finally, “God has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.”  The final lesson from Mary to Jesus: “Son, God loves us and hears us when we call out to him.  And he will always give us what we need.  So Jesus, when youre tempted to think that the Father won’t provide, think back, and remember what he did for Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob and all the rest.  Think of them, and know that he will do the same for you.”  That’s a lesson that Jesus definitely needed to remember on Good Friday, when he hung on that cross, dying for our sins. 

And he did remember.  Thank you again, Blessed Mother.

I suppose the only remaining question to be asked is the question: How?  How did Mary do it?  How did she accumulate all this wisdom to share with her Son?  Well, to get that answer all we have to do is look at today’s gospel text.  There, in that passage from Luke, chapter 2, we are told, “Mary treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart.”  Mary prayed.  She prayed a lot.  She meditated on her life, on all of her experiences, in light of God’s word.  Our Blessed Mother constantly went to the Lord for the wisdom she needed to be a good teacher, a good witness, and a good mother.  I think there’s a very important lesson there for all of us.  May we take that lesson to heart, and put it into practice in the new year—and beyond.