The Three Gestures of Mary

8 September 2006: The Nativity of Mary
Matthew 1, 1-23: The Three Gestures of Mary

At lunch today, we had lechon kawali, pancit and a Goldilock’s cake. I asked Nene, our cook, what’s the occasion. She said, that Fr. Raymund told her to order them because it is Mary’ birthday. The cake makes ordinary meals special and the pancit is a Chinese-Filipino tradition to wish someone a long life. When we celebrate birthdays we are grateful for the gift of the person to us. At birthdays, we remember who the celebrant is to us, and how he/she affected our lives. As we celebrate Our Mother’s birthday, we thus remember who she is to most of us. The significance of her birth is seen in the significance of Jesus in our salvation. Without her, salvation couldnot have been possible. We will use three common gestures of Mary taken from the pictures and statues we have of her. These are our images of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

First, Mary who prays. Images of Mary whose hands are clasped on her chest or those whose hands are outstretched are images of Mary praying. The outstretched hands tell us that she welcomes all of our needs. It is not surprising that many of us Filipinos, run to Mary when we are afflicted. The prayer, the Memorare tells us, “Remember O Most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to your protection, or sought intercession was left unaided.” Mary prays for us and continually opens her heart to all of us, listening to our petitions, whether it is of lesser consequence or of greater urgency and importance.

Second, Mary who is loving and tender. These are the images of Mary who embraces and keeps Jesus close to her heart. It is Mary who is mother to all of us, just as she was a mother who cared for Jesus.

Michael Jordan, whose father was murdered in the summer of 1993, said to Bob Greene: “My heroes are and were my parents… It wasn’t that the rest of the world would necessarily think they were heroic. But they were adults I saw constantly, and I admired what I saw. If you are lucky, you grow up in a house where you can learn what kind of person you should be from you parents. And on that count, I was very lucky. It may have been the luckiest thing that ever happened to me.” I guess, the luckiest thing for many of us Christians, is that we have a mother like Mary. It is not surprising, that when we are frightened, we cling to the rosary for protection. And we pray that Mary embraces us, like a mother who encloses her arms around us, and assure as that everything will turn our fine.

Third, Mary who points at Jesus. These are the images of Mary that tells us that she is not the center of attention, but her Son. These are images that remind us that Mary’s life and example leads us to where it should be, the love of Jesus, her Son.

Raising children like Jesus, guiding them through their struggles, comes from instruction and teaching. And as one mother said she had to say the same lesson over and over again. Wise parents provide this sort of training all the time. They teach their children to act with virtue and thereby develop the ability to do so on a regular basis. Here are some everyday advocacies:

Anak, alam kong mas gusto mong maglaro kasama ng mga kaibigan mo, pero meron kang assignment na kailangang gagawin mo. Gawin mo muna ang assignment, pagkatapos, pwede ka nang maglaro. (Son, I know you want to play with your friends, but you have to finish your assignment first. Do your assignment, then you can play with them.)

Alam kong ayaw mo ang binigay ng lola mo, pero isuot mo para matuwa siya. Mas mabuti sa kanyang kaarawan, kahit di mo gusto ang t-shirt mapasalamatan at mapasigla mo siya. (I know you do not like the shirt your grandmother gave you, but make her happy by wearing it on her birthday.)

How many times did Mary remind us to repent and to pray the rosary? The rosary reminds us of the life of Jesus, so that as we continue to pray it everyday, the life of Jesus becomes our life. Our children get what parents teach them by doing it consistently and repeatedly, like the repetitions in the rosary.

And so, as we celebrate the Birth of Mary, we remind ourselves that we too can be like her. We can pray for all peoples, care for them, and finally, lead our lives towards union with Jesus.

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