Saturday, August 21, 2021

Mother Mary comes to me


As a child I was always curious about the statue depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary. Dressed in blue and white, with her arms outstretched as if waiting to embrace us, she stood on top of a globe with a snake being crushed under her feet. I must admit, my interest in Mary had little to do with any devotion to her. I was interested in the snake. Was it like the rattler my brother told me about or was it one of these garter snakes we often taunted? At the time I had no knowledge that the artist who originally depicted Mary in this way was giving his interpretation of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent, the devil, as recorded in the biblical book, Genesis 3:15. Later I did develop an interest in Mary.

An interest that much later would spark my curiosity when I first heard the song, “Let it be”,  which  began with these words, “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom: let it be.” I immediately thought the Beatles were describing the Blessed Virgin Mary. For me, she is the one that comes to us in our times of trouble, whispering words of wisdom.  Then I discovered, as Paul McCartney explained in his biography, that his inspiration for these lyrics was his mother,  Mary Mohin McCartney. Apparently, whenever Paul McCartney was asked about the identity of Mary in the song, after explaining it was his mother, not Jesus’ mother, he would add, but people are welcome to interpret it as they wish. Now I am not about to change this song into another Marian hymn. However, as a person who believes you can find the sacred in all things, it was natural for me to want to reflect on the sacred meaning contained in these lyrics, especially since this weekend, Catholics celebrate the Queenship of Mary on August 22.   

Now before I share the insights I gained through my reflection, it is important to address those skeptics who dismiss Mary as insignificant, and complain how Catholics have turned Mary into a deity. The thinking here is a lot like that old axion: “Roman Catholics tend to adore Mary while Protestants and Evangelicals tend to ignore Mary.” I can understand why some of our Catholic beliefs and titles given to Mary might lead to this thinking, but from my perspective, neither adoration nor ignoring her is ideal. Anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus needs to include Mary in their faith life because she is a model of faith. She is not-God, but she is the one who said yes to God. This willingness to hear God’s will and do it would later be used by Jesus to describe those whom he regards as his mother, brothers, and sisters. (Mark 3: 33-35 and Matthew 12:50). It is for this reason when I hear the phrase, “let it be” I immediately recall  Mary’s words to the angel, “let it be with me according to your word.’ (Luke 1:38). Her yes makes her the mother of Jesus, but also makes her a model of faith, a template for all of us to copy. A way of life to imitate.  

Again, whenever I hear the song, “Let it be”,  I automatically think of how Mary, the mother of Jesus, comes to us in times of trouble. These lyrics written by Paul McCartney echo the long standing tradition in the Catholic Church that declares in times of difficulty we can ask Mary to intercede on our behalf. A biblical example of what I mean is found in the wedding at Cana as described by John in his gospel. At this wedding Mary intervenes on behalf of a couple to let Jesus know about an impending wine shortage. When Jesus says this is not our concern, she tells the servants, “do whatever he tells us you.” (John2:5)  Notice, Mary does not tell Jesus what to do, she simply draws his attention to a need. In the same way, our  Blessed Mother Mary is with us in our times of troubles. She is there drawing Jesus’ attention to our needs. She is there pointing us to Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

If you wish to know the Mother Mary that comes to me, take some time to ponder the words of a song she composed: Mary’s song of praise. (Luke 1:46-55). In her words, you meet a young joy-filled woman giving thanks to God. She identifies herself as a lowly servant but also acknowledges how future generations will call her blessed, not because of what she did, but what the Mighty One, God,  has done for her. This is the Mary we are asked to imitate, not admire. This is the Mary I see in those statues depicting her crushing the head of a serpent. My attention today is not on the snake but rather on Mother Mary’s outstretched arms waiting to embrace our every need.


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