1. The first
beatitude cited in the Gospel is that of faith, and it refers to
Mary: “Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45). These words, spoken
by Elizabeth, highlight the contrast between Zechariah’s disbelief
and Mary’s faith. On receiving the message about the future birth of
his son, Zechariah had found it hard to believe, judging it
impossible since both he and his wife were advanced in age.
At the Annunciation Mary is confronted with an even more surprising
message, the proposal that she become the mother of the Messiah. She
does not react with doubt to this prospect, but limits herself to
asking how the virginity to which she feels called could be
reconciled with the vocation to motherhood. To the reply of the
angel, who points out the divine omnipotence working through the
Spirit, Mary gives her humble and generous consent.
At that unique moment in human history, faith plays a decisive role.
St Augustine rightly states: “Christ is believed and conceived
through faith. First, the coming of faith takes place in the
Virgin's heart, followed by fruitfulness in the mother’s womb” (Sermo
293, PL 38, 1327).
2. If we wish to contemplate the depth of Mary’s faith, the Gospel
account of the wedding feast at Cana is a great help. Faced with the
lack of wine, Mary could have sought some human solution to the
problem at hand, but she does not hesitate to turn immediately to
Jesus: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3). She knows that Jesus has no
wine available; it is therefore likely that she is asking for a
miracle. And her request is all the more daring since until that
moment Jesus has not worked any miracles. By acting in this way, she
is doubtless obeying an inner inspiration, since, according to the
divine plan, Mary’s faith must precede the first manifestation of
Jesus' messianic power, as it preceded his coming to earth. She
already embodies the attitude that was to be praised by Jesus for
true believers in every age: “Blessed are those who have not seen
and yet believe” (Jn 20:29).
3. The faith to which Mary is called is not an easy one. Even before
Cana, while meditating on the words and behaviour of the Son, she
had to draw on a deep faith. The episode of the 12-year-old Jesus
lost in the temple was symbolic, when she and Joseph, in distress,
heard the answer: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know
that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49). But now, in Cana,
Jesus’ response to his Mother’s request seems even clearer and far
from encouraging: “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has
not yet come” (Jn 2:4). In the intention of the Fourth Gospel, it is
not the hour of Christ's public manifestation so much as an
anticipation of the significance of Jesus' supreme hour (cf. 7:30;
12:23; 13:1; 17:1), whose messianic fruits of redemption and of the
Spirit are effectively represented by the wine as a symbol of
prosperity and joy. But the fact that this hour had not yet occurred
chronologically is an obstacle which, coming from the sovereign will
of the Father, seems insurmountable.
Yet Mary does not withdraw her request, to the point of involving
the servants in accomplishing the expected miracle: “Do whatever he
tells you” (Jn 2:5). With her docility and the depth of her faith,
she looks beyond the immediate sense of Jesus' words. She intuits
the unfathomable abyss and infinite resources of divine mercy and
does not doubt her Son's loving response. The miracle is an answer
to the perseverence of her faith.
Mary is thus presented as the model of a faith in Jesus that rises
above all obstacles.
4. Jesus’ public life also tested Mary's faith. On the one hand, it
gave her joy to know that Jesus' preaching and miracles caused
admiration and approval in so many people. On the other, she sadly
notes the increasingly harsh opposition of the Pharisees, the
doctors of the law and the priestly hierarchy.
One can imagine how much Mary suffered from this disbelief, which
she observes even in her relatives: those who are called “the
brethren of Jesus”, that is, his relatives, do not believe in him
and interpret his behaviour as inspired by ambition (cf. Jn 7:2-5).
Although Mary is sad to hear the family disagreement, she does not
break off relations with these relatives, whom we find with her in
the first community waiting for Pentecost (cf. Acts 1:14). With her
kindness and love, Mary helps others to share her faith.
5. In the drama of Calvary, Mary’s faith remains unwavering. For the
disciples’ faith, this tragedy was overwhelming. Only through the
effectiveness of Christ’s prayer was it possible for Peter and the
others, who were also put to the test, to continue on the path of
faith in order to become witnesses to the Resurrection.
In saying that Mary stood at the foot of the Cross, the Evangelist
John (cf. 19:25) shows us that Mary remained full of courage at that
critical moment. It was certainly the hardest stage in her
“pilgrimage of faith” (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 58). But she could
stand there because she had remained firm in her faith. Put to the
test, Mary continued to believe that Jesus was the Son of God and
that by his sacrifice he would transform the destiny of mankind.
The Resurrection was the definitive confirmation of Mary’s faith. In
her heart, more than in any other, faith in the risen Christ
acquired its most complete and authentic aspect, that of joy.
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I warmly welcome the Lutheran visitors from Norway and Sweden and
the members of the Swedish Christian Association for Religious
Studies in Göteborg. I extend a special greeting to the delegation
of the Ministry of the Interior of Thailand, led by the Minister.
Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially
those from England, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Thailand and the United
States of America, I invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.
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