Homily – David Collins
I dare say you could walk into pretty much any catholic church across the world and it wouldn’t take long for you to spot some shrine or painting or statue erected in honour of Our Lady. Even just thinking about the churches I’m familiar with – I was baptized and married in our lady of Lourdes which actually had a model grotto inside the church itself. I was ordained in St Mary’s Cathedral which has a wonderful statue of our Lady to the right of the sanctuary. And we don’t do bad here either with this beautiful Carrera marble statue and that huge painting.
And this devotion to Mary is something that’s quite synonymous with Catholics. And I think we have a lot to thank St Luke for in this regard particularly the portrait of Mary he outlines for us in his gospel. Just take that wonderful passage we’ve listened to this morning which seems to paint an image of a young woman, wise beyond her years, a young woman totally at peace with herself and her relationship with God. A young woman who seems absolutely comfortable with the part she will play in God’s plan for our salvation.
But you know this image of a calm, serenity filled young woman doesn’t for me capture the full image of just who Mary was. Because I also think she was a bit of an action woman, a woman who wasn’t phased by difficult circumstances, a woman who was prepared to speak out for justice and right, a woman who got things done.
Just think of the predicaments in which she found herself. A young girl, unmarried and about to be a mother. And what does she do. She packs her bags and makes a tricky journey into the hill country to see her aunt.
And on getting there her first reaction wasn’t to seek comfort and help and support from an older and perhaps more worldly wise relative. Rather it was to praise God for all the great things he had done for her. And then she goes on to speak of the mercy of God and how he looks after his oppressed children. The hungry he has filled with good things the rich sent away empty.
It seems to me that Mary’s song, this Magnificat, expresses the hope of those struggling to come to terms with the challenges of everyday life. So it’s perhaps hardly surprising then that it’s at times of difficulty and distress, at times when we might feel that the problems in our lives are simply too much to bear, that we too turn to Mary for help. Because Mary was an expert it seems in dealing with the challenging situation in her life – at the annunciation, the wedding feast at Cana and standing at the foot of the cross.
So through the centuries Mary has been a source of inspiration for countless people who have met with challenges and disappointment, anxiety, fear, and pain. And its fair to say that if it wasn’t for people in these situations turning to Mary we wouldn’t be gathered together celebrating Mass in this church this morning.
Because in 1720, dismissed by Vatican officials and with his mission to form a religious congregation in tatters, a young Paul Daneii found himself in the Borghese chapel in the basilica of Mary Major in Rome, kneeling before an icon of our Lady, itself said to have been painted by St Luke. And kneeling there, in front of that image of Mary, he allowed the turmoil to leave his heart and he made a vow to promote the memory of the passion of Jesus and to work to gather companions for this purpose.
And today here at St Elizabeth’s we are blessed to have the fruits of that 300 year old vow present amongst us in the form of the Passionist priests and nuns who continue Paul Daneii’s , St Paul of the Cross’ mission in this wonderful place
So at those times when we find ourselves at a loss for what to do for the best. At those times when we face difficulties that we just can’t seem to see a solution to, then perhaps we might follow his example and the example of countless others and look to Mary, entrusting her with our troubles and anxieties.
For just as a child will go to their mother with a broken toy or a cut knee, why wouldn’t we put our trust in Mary and turn to her, the mother of God and our Mother for help, in the full knowledge that the perfect Son of so good a Mother will always be there for her and for us.