A Loving Presence – Mark Lopez, SJ

Saturday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time, Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

ourladyoftherosary

My Dad, for a very long time, did not believe in the role of Mary in our faith as Christians. Although he was a devout Catholic, a daily mass-goer, and a very dedicated minister of the Eucharist, he had questions. Perhaps like we all sometimes do. As Cardinal Martini himself puts it…”There is in each of us – whatever our religion , even in a bishop – a believer and a non-believer. These two exchange views and try to convince each other” perhaps in life-long dialogue.

Dad read many books. Many, many books, in search of answers. But none seemed to satisfy his longing for a way of understanding what importance Our Lady had. And it was therefore, in the end, of great consolation to my mom, to hear him in the final hours of his life, say many Hail Marys.

This left me asking: how was it that a presence so strong, so very much felt, so influential to my drawing nearer to Christ, is so difficult to be believed by so many? How is one to explain Our Lady’s role in our faith and life today?

Foremost, I think we can reflect today on how Mary, is not primarily a mystery to be studied or a dogma to be memorized. That is why I think the path to her is not through books and scholarship. She is first and foremost, a loving presence. And the path where we meet her, is prayer.

Personally, I am thankful today for countless times in prayer that she has reassured me by her presence. While I cannot claim of visions or apparitions, or hearing voices as others do, I have had many a time when I simply felt she was with me. Times when I would be thanking her for journeying with me in my vocation as a Jesuit, and me being surprised at her response – somehow feeling she was thanking me too, for taking on the mission of her son. Many a time, also, I would turn to her for the desperate, almost hopeless intentions of other people in dire need. The crumbling marriage of dear friends, or a painful sickness overcoming a loved one, or the pain of betrayal. And sometimes, not long after my prayers are said, she would reassure me, simply by her presence, that all shall be. And so foremost, I think that is what the rosary allows us – a way to enter into this presence.

If there are those among you, on the other hand, who are hesitant to turn to Our Lady, thinking you can always “go straight to God” with your concerns, here’s a thought or two that might help.

There are times in our lives when it is the Anima’s presence that we seek or need: a mother’s bosom or a woman’s embrace, the warmth and gentleness of the feminine voice, the healing, nurturing power of the feminine. There are times, when down, broken, desperate, lonely, lost, sick or wounded, or “at the hour of our death”, when it is a She who will come to console us. It is in these times, in the many hours of death that fill our lives, I believe, that God reaches out to us, most powerfully through Mary. These are times when we will long for Her to hold us and cradle us in her arms, like she did the baby Jesus, and like she did the lifeless body of Christ beneath the cross.

If you’ve been following world news over the past weeks, you may also have entered a sense of darkness that envelopes so many parts of the world today- what with the Rohingya crises in Myanmar (so representative of the plight of all our refugees;) with the state-sponsored killings (over 7,000) and counting in the Philippines; with more gun violence in Las Vegas and many parts of America, and with the escalating threat of nuclear war; – maybe it is a feminine presence like Mary’s – who saw the worst happen to her own son, and who came through shining brightly in the very end – maybe it is a presence like hers that we will need to keep hoping and working for the best in this world.

Finally, as Christians we believe that in Mary’s goodness and utmost obedience to the Father’s will; Mary, at the end of her earthly life, truly and fully became one with God (like other saints) …Thus, although we do not say Mary IS God, we do say she is one with God. Being one with God means She cannot and does not operate apart from God anymore. And so we hope, by meditating on the mysteries of her life and of Christ’s life, we may come to take part in such God-uniting goodness. God-uniting goodness – that is what Mary possessed. That is what Mary is.

And so, in a word, Thank you Lord for the gift of Mary and the gift of allowing us to pray with and through her. Thank you for moving and inspiring us through her life, person and presence. And to you, dear blessed mother, sister or friend – today, as always, we pour out our love.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.

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