February 2021 Allocutio
“Bring everything to Mary and let her have charge of it”
Fr. Paul Churchill
I was reflecting, at the beginning of this month, on the Presentation of the Lord. Depending on which artist you follow it is either Mary who is offering Jesus with Joseph or, on the other hand Simeon. Certainly, Mary and Joseph are presenting the infant Jesus to God (Lk 2:22). Mary may have some prayer in her heart which went, “God, you gave him to me but he is yours. Help me in my responsibility to be the best of all mothers”. Joseph may have had thoughts like this, “God you have entrusted this child to my care with his mother. I accept the challenge and ask your light to protect them both”.
I once saw a picture of this scene in which Simeon holds Jesus in his arms (Lk 2:28). He is dressed in vestments not unlike a priest at the altar and indeed he stands before an altar in that scene. In a way he is also offering Jesus to the Father. His words, “the sign of contradiction” and “a sword will pierce your own heart” (Lk 2:34-35) are clearly hinting the great sacrifice of Our Lord that will come to pass on Calvary, the one we united to at Mass.
Behind all that lies the deepest meaning of the Presentation, namely that Jesus is already offering himself to the Father. The letter to the Hebrews is clear, “This is why on entering the world Christ says, ‘You did not desire sacrifice and offering … instead here am I to do your will’” (Heb 10:5ss). That project of God when he sent Jesus to us, to undo our sins, is taking another step after the Incarnation and birth of Jesus.
Here we must stop and consider another great truth also embedded in this moment. Baby Jesus in his human form is as limited as any baby can be. And so he depends on Mary. She who allowed him into her womb, she who gave him birth is now carrying him in her arms to the Temple so that he can take another step in his mission. Without her he could not have done it. And that is the way it will remain. From beginning to end he has designed things such that it is this woman who will be the one to steer him through his mission here to its very end.
At twelve years of age, he was clearly trying to find his feet and stayed behind in Jerusalem and indeed might have been tempted to stay there were it not for the anguish of her heart. She effectively communicated the Father’s will to him to return to Nazareth where he grew in wisdom and stature. Then later in Cana, when he first seemed to turn down her request to give a sign, he clearly heard his Father’s wish through her to take his mission, which was beginning, in another direction and so performed his first miracle.
From the start Jesus submitted to his mother and allowed his heavenly Father to work through her. And as Louis Marie de Montfort and Frank Duff would say, God’s ways do not change. God in his dealings with us has decreed that she is his chief instrument. She is the greatest human channel of grace. We always do well to go to her and through her to God and in turn God has arranged that she is the chief dispenser of his graces won by Christ for us. If we hand over to her what is in our hearts and trust her as our heavenly Mother, we can be sure that it will turn out well. We will be on a safe path if we keep close to her.
I have been meditating on the Passion and this thought came to me. Did Mary help him let his spirit go? I think it is not unknown that humans sometimes hold on until they get leave to go. Like the woman who holds on till her daughter is married or her son gets home from abroad. This is not uncommon. And I note that just before he dies Jesus has been attentive to his mother just before he gave up his spirit (Jn 19:25-30). Might it be that something in her face, posture and demeanour told him he could go now? If so it is another sign that in everything, from his conception to his death, he depended on her in this world.
If we bring everything to Mary and let her have charge of it, God’s will will be achieved for us. Her mother’s heart cares for her children. She is attuned to what is best. And if she knows that some desire that we have is not for our good but comes from some sinful impulse she will not betray us. It is why we must always come to her and say, “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”