My dear friends , we gather once again on the eve of the Assumption of Mary to give honour to Mary, the Mother of God; to give voice to show our devotion and our love for this unique woman whom Jesus, her son, has given to us to be our mother, and to celebrate the Eucharist, to say “thank you” to God for all the love and all the blessings God has given to us, especially through the intercession of Mary, our mother.
We are here on a pilgrimage. To make a pilgrimage means to make a journey to a sacred place. So we come to this grotto in Rama as pilgrims, following in the footsteps of pilgrims who have come here for 73 years. In a reflection following Mass, Pope Francis invited those present to reflect on “Mary the pilgrim.” I don’t recall ever being asked to reflect on Mary as being a pilgrim. But Pope Francis explained that Mary is indeed a pilgrim because she “follows Jesus the Son, and goes before all of us in the journey of faith.” (2013-05-05 reflection after Mass.)
This pilgrimage we are making today to Rama is an image of the pilgrimage of our own lives. Each of our lives is a journey through the years to the holiest place of all: to heaven, to God the Father’s house, to the unending wedding banquet of Jesus, the Lamb of God. Each of us is on a journey. That journey takes us through the joys and sorrows of life, through its challenges, its tragedies, its successes and its failures. We all know the bumps and all the pot holes of this journey.
When we say that Mary is a pilgrim, we express our belief, as Pope Francis says, that “Mary has always been present in the hearts, the piety and above all the pilgrimage of faith of the Christian people.” We know of the great devotion that St. John Paul II had for Mary. He wrote these words: “The Church journeys through time… and on this journey she proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary” (Redemptoris Mater, 2).
The journey of faith that we make is the same is the same journey that Mary made. Rightly we can feel that Mary is particularly close to us as we make our own particular journey. As far as faith is concerned, the Mother of God shared our condition. She had to take the same path that we ourselves are now following, a path which is sometimes difficult and not very clear. Mary had to journey forward in the “pilgrimage of faith” just as we do. (Lumen gentium, 58). (Mass on the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God 2014)
When we are troubled by a struggle with our faith we can say “Mary has gone through this.” When parents struggle and worry about their children they can say “Mary has gone through this.” When anxiety presses down and fear rises in us, we can say “Mary has gone through all of this. I am not alone. And so we pray: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”
I remember at a CWL National Convention, a keynote speaker spoke of how important “now” is. Really, all we have is “right now” Is that not so? The past is gone and no one knows what the future holds in store for us so what we have is the NOW. And so we say: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners NOW, and especially when that NOW becomes the hour of our death, the hour when we reach the goal of our pilgrimage of life. If Mary prays for us now, she is praying for us constantly.
In his homily of the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God this year, Pope Francis said this:Our pilgrimage of faith has been inseparably linked to Mary ever since Jesus, dying on the Cross, gave her to us as our Mother, saying: “Behold your Mother!” (Jn 19:27). These words serve as a testament, bequeathing to the world a Mother. From that moment on, the Mother of God also became our Mother!
When the faith of the disciples was most tested by difficulties and uncertainties, Jesus entrusted them to Mary, who was the first to believe, and whose faith would never fail. The “woman” became our Mother when she lost her divine Son. Her sorrowing heart was enlarged to make room for all men and women, all, whether good or bad, and she loves them as she loved Jesus.Mary loves us as she loves Jesus. So we have Mary with us on our own personal pilgrimage, our own personal journey through life - not only as the Mother of Jesus, but as our own Mother.
I would like to close with a reference to a Devotion to Mary that I had never heard about until very recently. It is a devotion that gives us the title: Mary, Untyer of Knots or Mary, Undoer of Knots. It sounded rather strange to me. However this devotion was promoted in Argentina by Fr. Jorge Mario Bergolio who as we know has become Pope Francis.
When he was a young priest studying in Germany he saw a painting, dating from 1700, showing Mary, crushing Satan, the snake, under her heel. And in her hands was a long cord filled with knots and tangles which Mary was untying.
This notion goes back to Saint Irenaeus who lived less than a hundred years after the death of the Apostles. Saint Irenaeus wrote that "the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith." (Adversus haereses, 3, 22) Mary’s total obedience to God untied the knot of the ancient disobedience of Adam and Eve, a knot which had bound people’s hearts and souls through the ages.
As we travel along our own pilgrimage of life, we are well aware of all the knots and tangles which are tied tight deep within us. Knots of anger and hatred. Knots of fear and spitefulness and selfishness. Knots of pain and despair and our own weaknesses. Knots which are too numerous to list. But each of us knows what these knots are and we know how they tie us up and keep us from having the freedom and life Christ has won for us.
Mary brings us to Jesus, her son. All the knots and tangles that have been tied in our soul and in our hearts are undone through the intercession of Mary and we are set free by God’s love made present to us in Jesus Christ our Saviour.