Mother Mary: The intercessor.
Anthony Ekpunobi, CM.
Intercession is not necessarily about change but the acceptance of God’s will. Our prayers should not be aimed at changing the will of God for it is good. In the intercessory power of the Blessed Virgin Mary we see faith in action. Through intercession Mary showed the world the strength of her faith. The church encourages us to emulate her in this virtue. The miracle at the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee remains for humanity a paradigm of Mary’s intercession for the children of God. How she found a way to solve the problem remain a mystery of the power of intercessory prayer.
‘…betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child…’ (Matthew 2:18). The cultural shame of premarital pregnancy at the time of the annunciation is one capable of life time stigmatization and estrangement from ones people and culture. Through the Holy Spirit, Mary was found to be with child. This happened while she was already given out in marriage, but the consummation of the union had not taken place. Far from being convinced of her innocence, Mary had to bear the taunt of inability to explain what it means ‘to be conceived of the Holy Spirit’. Her consolation were the words of the angel –The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. (Luke 1:35). She relied on the power of God through the Holy Spirit to be delivered from humiliation. She submitted to God’s will based on the promise of the angel to overshadow her with the Holy Spirit of God. God displayed His love for Mary in a miraculous manner through Joseph her husband.
The power of the God through the Holy Spirit soon began to display itself right before her. Joseph her husband who had concluded plans to divorce her informally, suddenly changes his mind and took her in. To believe that it was just love, for Joseph to make up his mind to accept Mary as he did, would be overestimating the nature of man. This is because by accepting to take Mary in, Joseph sacrificed his ‘man-hood’ i.e. his natural given ability to produce his own seed. The responsibility of the infant Jesus Christ will soon become a thin of life and death when Herod’s evil plans begins to display. It was Joseph who decided they take refuge in Egypt in order to safeguard the young messiah. When the infant Jesus Christ was left behind in Jerusalem after the Passover feast, it was Joseph who led the way in the search for him. This is the work of the Holy Spirit displayed right before her watch. The power of the Most High actually overshadowed her and the entire situation. Contrary to contemporary opinion, God did not remove the fact of the pregnancy, rather God turned every situation around her to favor the pregnancy. As Luke rightly wrote, ‘…and… [Mary] kept all these things in her heart’ (Luke 2:51).
‘…the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine”’. (John 2:3). The effects of the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit remained with her afterwards. For at the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, the wine meant for the celebration got finished. Another humiliating circumstance that cannot be attributed to either guilt or ignorance presented itself. This scenario is easy to imagine even in contemporary time. Jesus Christ is neither a wealthy man nor a wine maker. The poor carpenter’s son, Jesus of Nazareth, and his few friends might have come to enjoy and rejoice with those who were celebrating love. While He may not join those whose first reaction at the news of the wine running out, would be to laugh, he would wonder why His mother could be so moved with pity for the ugly and humiliating circumstance presenting itself. Jesus’ answer to Mary his mother confirmed our guess – “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4).
Mary approached Jesus Christ her son from a concerned heart who had been through the path of humiliation. She has witnessed how the Holy Spirit worked through his father Joseph. She believed that the same Holy Spirit who overshadowed her humiliating circumstance will repeat itself in the present predicament. She appealed to the power of the Holy Spirit whom at the annunciation, the angel promised would be with the child all through his life. She appealed to the son of God –‘…therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.’ (Luke 1:35).
She expected Jesus Christ to act like His father Joseph by allowing the Holy Spirit who overshadows difficult and humiliating circumstances to act through him. Thus it was that a similar reality is displayed. The Holy Spirit through the son of God, used what was available and handy – water– to change the ugly situation. Such that when the chief host tasted the wine from water, he exclaimed; “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:10). We deduct from her instruction to the stewards – Do whatever he tells you. (John 2:5), that all she wanted was God’s will to be done. Whatever the Father wills is the motivation of all intercessions.
“… I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). The intercessory power of the Blessed Virgin Mary should never be compared to any other. The reason goes beyond her being the mother of God. It is shrouded in mystery to the extent that what is left for us is to emulate her disposition towards the will of God. When she intercedes, it is not necessarily to change the situation but to accept what God reveals. Faith is a supernatural gift from God that enables us to accept without doubt what God has revealed. Through intercession, Mary’s faith is revealed. She teaches us to do the same. Mary’s intercessory powers are hinged in my opinion on the following:
- The God who fond favor with her. At the annunciation, Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that God has favored her. She has been chosen by God to be the mother of the messiah. The angel Gabriel greeted her thus, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1: 28). She was favored by God and not by merit. In the magnificat, she recognized this wonderful gesture of a loving God -“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden” (Luke 1:47-48). Mary is convinced within herself that the Father who found favor with her without any merit of her own cannot forsake her in the hour of need. She is willing to submit at all costs to the demands of such love.
- The shadow of the Holy Spirit. At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel promised Mary of protection by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God will clear all doubts and confusion. For it was promised to Mary in her moment of doubt and distress – “How can this be, since I have no husband?” (Luke 1:34). The Holy Spirit assisted Mary not to reject but to accept the will of the father for her. She had her choice but rather she trusted in what at the moment was shrouded in uncertainty – pregnancy without intercourse. Favoured by God, she trusted in his providence.
- Jesus Christ her firstborn. Every mother has the key to the heart of her son. This is a natural fact of life. When Mary approached Jesus Christ at the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, she identified with her son. She clearly understood the divine nature of his birth and was sure that her request must be met with an answer. Her intention was not necessarily to change the already bad situation, but rather to find out what God wants at the very moment. Hence her instruction to the servants – Do whatever he tells you. (John 2:5).
We see in the Blessed Virgin Mary an intercessor with a difference. She differs from modern day intercessors who pray as though the change is all that is needed. They promise change and not faith. It is similar to visiting a magician or a soothsayer. Interceding for change is not Mary’s style for it does not encourage faith. She intercedes for the acceptance of the will of God. If the will of God involves change as it was in the case of the wedding at Cana in Galilee, then so be it. Through the Blessed Virgin Mary, the church intercedes for the will of the father to be done on earth as it is done in heaven.