Mary in May - Reflections to use with the Rosary

Mary in May - Reflections to use with the Rosary

Posted: Mon, 02 May 2022 13:52

Mary in May - Reflections to use with the Rosary

Mary in May-reflections to use with the rosary

The Birth of Mary


The reality of Incarnation is that Jesus was born into a real family;
scripture highlight Bethlehem as the city of David, the family
associated with Joseph. As we begin our traditional devotion of the
rosary, it is good to look at the maternal side of Jesus's family. One
of the hardest parts of the global pandemic and the necessary physical
isolation, was that our elders were seen as especially vulnerable. Many
of us were unable to connect with our grandparents and those significant
older people in our lives. We missed their hugs, their cuddles and their
spoiling; they missed us too and often the only contact they had was
through a glass window. We should continually pray for our wonderful
elders who have shared their vision, values and faith with us, just like
Anna and Joachim did with Mary and their very special grandchild.


The Presentation of Mary

Tradition has it that Mary's father, Joachim worked in the Temple of
Jerusalem. As a devout Jewish family, he and his wife would naturally
want to give thank you God for the gift of Mary. We join them, in
spirit, also for the gift of Mary to our Church. These past two years
have brought pressure on all our lives: we have seen failure from our
politicians and, even, our Church. We have witnessed the horrors and
pain of innocent Ukrainian nationals, who have become pawns in a cynical
aggression. We present all those who have been suffering as a result of
Covid and War. In this decade of the rosary, please thank God for all
that YOU have presented to the Lord for the greater good-that is real
SACRIFICE! Thank you for your service!


Betrothal of Mary and Joseph

Some scholars think that Joseph, the master carpenter met Mary during
the re-construction of the great Jerusalem Temple, where his skills
would have been greatly appreciated and needed. Love is so important in
our lives-we need it for our own well-being. In those pandemic times of
severe hardship, we have also seen the power and strength of real love
and care: from the amazing Captain Tom and his century walk around his
garden to the nurse copying the last message of a dying mum to her
children. Married love is not about one person in the relationship
having THEIR desires and demands fulfilled. Married love is about mutual
respect and unconditional love, one for the other. I'm thinking of a
very special couple whose marriage had to be postponed because of the
regulations we had to build up around COVID-19. Think of all those
whose lives and loves were hurt by lockdown. Think of those Ukrainian
and Russian couples forced into separation by war. Sadly, we also need to
remember those relatively few couples who are experiencing pain, hurt
and abuse because of abusive situations in their homes. Like Mary and
Joseph, we are called to share mutual respect, seeing the dignity of our
partners.


The Annunciation

Our story takes us from Judea up to Galilee; scholars point to the
building of the great new city of Sepphoris which Joseph would have
found employment, while tradition has it that Mary's parents moved here
from Jerusalem obviously bringing their daughter north with them-there
is Church dedicated to St Anne built on what is thought to be their
home. This great city is "perched like a bird" on a 400-foot hill that
overlooks the Bet Netofa Valley and helps to explain its other Hebrew
name, Zippori (bird). From this panoramic view of Lower Galilee, you can
gaze on Nazareth and Cana as Herod Antipas probably did. It may well
have inspired the reflection in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus said,
"A city set on a hill cannot be hidden." (Matthew 5:14).

In Nazareth, Mary now betrothed to Joseph, the love of her life, is
asked by the messenger to do the impossible: to bring God not the world.
What an ask! What responsibility! What trust! In these past few weeks,
you have been asked to live the impossible: we are sharing, with Mary,
confusion and difficulty. Above all, Mary showed her trust and utter
faith in a God who chose her. God is with us through all pain, and
challenge, for us, is to see that care and love perhaps in those little
things: making cupcakes together, emailing an elderly friend or your
teenage son tidying his room...at last!


The visit to Elizabeth

The wonder of God is that the impossible can, and does, happen. Mary has
been given the news of the birth of her child, a child destined to
change history. Mary is literally the means through God can enter human
history. One would forgive her for feeling rather full of herself-she
was told by the angel, "rejoice so highly favoured" (Luke 1:28). Mary is
not arrogant or selfish so, on hearing that a much older mother to be
needs support, she leaves home and goes to help Elizabeth. Not for her
and Joseph will be trips to the Nazareth branch of 'Mothercare' to pick
out a pram for their new arrival! Mary's instinctive action is one of
support and help. Isolation and the need to support each other in these
times of crisis is essential. Those little acts of kindness can mean so
much and just help people to get through another day in the hope of a
return to some sort of normality-new or otherwise. On her fifth
birthday, Princess Charlotte was seen delivering food to the elderly;
the cynics will cry that this is another photo-op for the Royals.
However, it would be much better to think that the young Royal was
trying to follow the example of Mary, the help. Anyway, in these
challenging days, you do not have to be a royal; as Christians it should
be instinctive as, together, we continue to build up the reign of God.

Elizabeth can see that "of all women" Mary is the most blessed (Luke 1:
42). As we pray this part of the rosary, it might be best to join with
her in a total outpouring of praise to God

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God
my saviour" (Luke 1: 46)

Birth of Jesus

We are all familiar with the Christmas story, that brings light and joy
to the darkest of winters. Joseph and Mary again journey down from
Nazareth to the city of David, Bethlehem as they joined the mass exodus
of people to join in the Roman requirement for census. Not for them a
Bethlehem lockdown in the local Hilton or even a B&B. The Saviour of the
World, the Messiah is born in the simple poverty of the stable. Jesus
Christ brings simplicity and invites us to share it more than ever in
our forced isolation that a pandemic forced us to face. So many of those
familiar props have been stripped away from our lives. Covid-19 has
forced us to live that simple life without air travel, going to the gym,
going to the salon, eating out or having a quick pint at the local. As
we are forced to live the simple life, perhaps reflect on those
child-like qualities we are invited to embrace-we might want to hang on
to a lot of them as the new normal returns.


The Shepherds help Mary to reflect

In the Gospel of Luke it is the shepherds who are the first greet the
Messiah-we are presented with those simple hardworking shepherds as the
initial sharers of the Good News. The angels shared the "Glory of God"
(Luke 2:14) and Mary was able ponder on these amazing turn of events
and treasure them in her heart (Luke 2:19)-very often it can be
strangers who come into our lives and leave us as friends! They help us
to see other ways of doing things and being Church. In these times, we
are being asked to live a totally new way of being community; it is
strange and hard but this post in a busy parish website certainly made
me ponder:

This lockdown is proving to be a blessing in disguise-it's so eye
opening how unifying is praying together.

At this time, being a shepherd was not the career choice for those
aspiring to achieve and earn a strong wage. Yet, time and time again,
the adult Jesus presents the shepherd as the symbol of care and trust.
Therefore, it is so fitting that it was the shepherds who come to
visit and share with the Christ-child. I hope that you can stop and
reflect on what this period in your life has meant to you; ask
forgiveness where necessary, and TREASURE and remember all that is good.


Presentation of the Lord

As good Jews, Mary and Joseph come to bring their first born and present
Jesus to God. In doing so they meet with two wonderful elders and
prophets, Simeon and Anna. I hope that these unusual times have forced
us to look more deeply into the wisdom of our elders and share their
life stories, especially with our children. As parishes, schools and
families, we have a wonderful and rich story to tell and now we have no
excuse. Children will be amazed and realise that they have to ensure
that they not only re-tell their story but make their own personal
contribution to the continuing story.

Simeon is now free as he has "seen the salvation which you have prepared
for all the nations to see" (Luke 2:31-32). In the midst of the joy of
new birth, ever the realist, he warns Mary of the pain that is to come
(Luke 2:33-35). Parents will always want what is best for their
children-always! They will do anything to ensure that their loved ones
do not suffer and will take the pain onto themselves just like Mary.
During the pandemic and the accompanying isolation, we were honoured to
share extra time with our elders—many even mastered zoom and social
media to make sure that contact was maintained. Like wonderful Anna, we
are called to "praise God" (Luke 2:38) in what we do and say. What
we DO and SAY in a time of crisis says a lot about us; pray that it
speaks volumes of the great Christian story that we share.

The Holy Family have to flee to Egypt

Even in the midst of good times, we can see pain and hurt; how many of
us celebrated New Year's Day 2020 with confidence and hope, little
thinking that only three months later a global pandemic would force us
all into a global isolation? In the joy of new life and the glory of a
special birth, King Herod can see only threat and disaster as he ordered
his troops in to murder the Holy Innocents. Why do bad things happen to
good people? Thus, the Holy Family are forced into a new journey, the
journey of the refugee.

Today millions share that same fate, displaced by terrorism, war,
religious disputes, sexual difference, racism, economic hardship and,
now, COVID-19. It is sad to reflect that the Dheisheh Refugee Camp is
located in Bethlehem-the birthplace of Jesus-it is constant reminder to
us that refugees are still with us: the United Nations estimate that
there are around 70.8 million forcibly displaced people in the world.
70.8 million people who are not at home, often in living conditions that
do not allow space for physical distancing. While we might find our own
living conditions hard during lockdown, please take time to think of
those 70.8 million people who share the fate of the Holy Family. As we
move towards a new normal, so we will need to begin a new way of living,
a new way to socialise, a new way of working, a new way of going to
school and a new way of being Church-perhaps even a new way of being
family. Jesus and his family have had to enter a new way as they flee to
Egypt.

As we continue to pray the rosary, pray for those who, for whatever
reason, are being forced to flee and run away today. They have to run
into oblivion without the chance to say "thanks" or "goodbye!" As they
flee, they cry out with Joseph and Mary: "why do bad things happen to
good people?"


Return home to Nazareth

The Gospel tells us that the Holy Family returned to Galilee and the
town of Nazareth once it was safe. Perhaps Joseph was able to return to
the security of employment working on the expanding city of Sepphoris-it
is also interesting to reflect that Joseph might have had an apprentice
as it was common for sons to follow their fathers' job choice. Jesus
returns to normality after an amazing infancy; the school of life taught
him some hard lessons that would stay with him throughout his life,
preaching and ministry of care, no doubt giving him an empathy for those
in need.

Jesus is now able to have a time of contentment and peace. Jesus and his
family live the ordinary. In these days of recovering from international
pandemic and possible global conflict, we can look back on the
'ordinary' with a sense of nostalgia. We have been forced to change our
whole way of doing everything from shopping to cutting hair to
exercising to learning to become a teacher. Pray at this stage that we
can return to the ORDINARY and share the reality and power of Incarnation.


Jesus, the Teenager in Jerusalem

One of the most amazing experiences one can have at the great Western
Wall in modern Jerusalem is when a family bring their teenage boy for
bar mitzvah, their coming of age. The singing, dancing and sense of
celebration is awe inspiring and gives us a picture of the joy of
Jesus's own coming of age-the songs, dances and prayers go right back
into Old Testament times. Jesus was taken by his family on pilgrimage to
Jerusalem too; we are well aware of the confusion that meant Jesus
stayed behind. For anyone who has lost a child, there is a panic and
real fear as we frantically search for that loved one, a living part of us.

They find him with the teachers of the law, based at the Temple; they
are AMAZED at his wisdom and the questions that he asks. In education we
have to be open to learning at all stages in life; a good teacher is one
who learns from their students, just like the Temple teachers.

The exchange between Jesus and his mother can come across as cheeky and
failure to show respect Mary says "Your father and I have been searching
for you." (Luke 2: 48). Jesus answers, "You should have known I would be
at the house of my Father." (Luke 2:49) In other words, Jesus has chosen
this crucial stage in his life, on the brink of manhood, to tell his
parents in an unforgettable way that he now knows who his real Father is
and what it will mean for his mission. The time will come when Jesus
will be killed in Jerusalem, and after three days rise from the dead,
and that will be a great pain to Mary. And is not this three-day vigil
of Mary and Joseph a foreshadowing of that experience? She said, "Your
father and I have been seeking you in pain.

As a young man, probably already working with Joseph as his apprentice,
goes home to Nazareth to continue living that ordinary life but with a
new sense of vision and purpose. All of us were asked to live an
extraordinary life in the periods of lockdown and, I pray, that you can
share this vision of Jesus too, especially as you LISTEN and LEARN from
your own children.

Jesus the teenager

I love to visit the Basilica of Jesus the Adolescent built on a hill
overlooking the town of Nazareth, known as the Mount of Start-tradition
has it that Jesus played with his friends in these hills. This makes the
incarnation even more real for me; Jesus was a real teenager and played
real games up here. Next to the simple gothic church is the Salesian
School, offering education to local teenagers. It is wonderful to hear,
while praying in this basilica, the shouts and cries of the young people
playing basketball. I never find it a distraction, rather I see it as a
way to connect once again with the beauty of the Fifth Gospel-the
experience of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land that is alive.

Don Bosco wanted his schools to be places of learning, but also a place
where young people can feel at home and feel free to celebrate; in
Salesian thought, it must also be a playground of fun and games where
the young find unconditional acceptance and a sense of hope. The pilgrim
to Nazareth will find all of this when they go to the Basilica. Pray
deeply today for all our young people; Don Bosco saw their potential and
how we NEED their wisdom in the Church. If you find yourself locked down
with young people in these days, see beyond the untidy rooms, the
backchat and the rows. Recognise with Pope Francis the gift and
blessings of our teenagers to the Church:


"Christ is alive, and He wants you to be alive...The Church needs your
momentum, your intuitions, your faith... And when you arrive where we
have not yet reached, have the patience to wait for us." (Christus Vivit
1 & 299)

Jesus and Mary at Cana

I love the fact that John's Gospel; generally seen as the deepest of all
the gospels, begins the public ministry of Jesus at Cana with a miracle
of pure fun! John sets the scene with an experience that most of us can
identify with - being a guest at a wedding. We want to make sure that we
get the best outfit and ensure that the best present is bought. We do
not know who the mystery couple are, but we do know that Jesus, his
mother and the disciples are guests (John 2: 1-2). Typical of Mary is
that she sees the potential for disaster and family embarrassment; she
knows that Jesus will come to the rescue as she tells the servers, "do
whatever HE tells you!" (John 2:5). This is Mary's intuitive gift and
simple prayer for the whole Church: if we DO WHATEVER HE TELLS us, then
how much better the Church will be. This is our simple calling to DO
Eucharistic as we continue to DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME.

This is where the fun comes in; John does not choose a miracle of
healing a leper or a calming of a storm or a rising from the dead. Jesus
offers gallons of wine of the finest vintage that everyone can
enjoy. This miracle stands in the tradition of all gospel
multiplications: God will provide more than enough; we will enjoy plenty
always if we trust in God.

As we continue our rosary please pray for the married couples you
know, especially in this time of crisis when tensions can surface if we
are not careful. Jesus and Mary witnessed the Cana take vows; as wedding
guests you too have heard those vows: to have and to hold from this day
forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in
health, till death do us part. This is an exchange between TWO equals;
in these days of isolation, please listen to the wisdom of Mary, DO
WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU


The foot of the Cross

Mary finds herself in the most difficult and hurtful situations as she
finds herself at the place of Roman execution with her son as the
branded criminal - branded because of lies and failure. She has been asked
to make the ultimate sacrifice of any parent: to watch your child die.
She has seen the horror and hatred of the Via Delarosa; people screaming
and spitting their venom; her only hope is with Simon of Cyrene,
Veronica and the Women of Jerusalem. As you pray the rosary, it is good
to reflect on what side of the divide you find yourself as you try to
follow Mary's prayer for you: "do whatever he tells you!" We might like
to think we are a Veronica, bringing comfort in this crisis; or are we
fermenting discord and the very hatred that led to the Cross? It is a
hard question to ask of ourselves but, in this time of international
crisis and we are probably at our lowest, it has to be asked as we stand
with Mary at the foot of the cross. Like her we have witnessed death and
pain over these past few weeks; we have lost loved ones, neighbours and
fellow parishioners. Mary stands with us in our sorrow; she understands
our confusion, anger and pain. Like her we cry out for an end to this
pain; we cry out for justice and a sense of real community in the new
normal. As we move closer to a closure, may Mary's thoughtfulness,
empathy and gentle presence be with us as a guiding light.


Jesus is placed into the arms of his mother.

In this part of the rosary we are invited to join with a sorrowful
mother. Years earlier in a Bethlehem crib, a child was laid into the
arms of Mary; now we reflect on that same child and mother in death. The
dead body of Jesus is placed into the arms of a mother who hugged and
cradled him-a mother who was there for him in life and death. During the
horrible depth of the pandemic, it was social media that kept us all in
touch. However, a Zoom call or text lacks that personal, human contact
that we all crave. The real-life stories behind the statistics tell of
victims of COVID-19 dying without family support; we thank God for our
nurses and carers who have sat with them in their hour of death. In the
global pieta, Mary holds us all in her care and love. Let us pray with
those in pain as they mourn the deaths of those they love.

As Mary holds her loving son in her arms, a victim of the hatred of
others, how does she feel , what are her emotions, can she forgive?
Throughout the life, work and teaching of Jesus, we see him bringing
peace and forgiveness, expressed so beautifully in the prayer he gave to
his disciples: "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who
trespass against us" (Matthew 6:12). This is a challenge to our Easter
faith and perhaps we have had time, during this time of enforced
isolation, to reflect on those we feel we cannot forgive. Why is this
so? Is there any chance you could reach out and give that Easter gift of
peace? Jesus reaches out to the LOST and hurt in the parables of the
lost in Luke's Gospel, the lost coin, sheep and Son show us how
important it is to reach out and accept forgiveness in our lives. These
parables also give us an opportunity to meditate on 'what counts' in our
lives. (Luke 15: 4-32). If we don't then we are consigned to a life of
pain and hurt; we might think that we can get by, but we are not living
up to that injunction of Jesus to set people FREE and become prisoners
to our own hatred. Bitterness and wanting revenge can become a cancer
that eats away at us and harm our own wellbeing. Today, in the middle of
the Ukrainian War, we all need to be bearers of the PEACE of Risen Lord.
There are enough situations of hurt and bitterness in society without
any of us adding to that pain. Reach out today and bring your peace to
those who genuinely need it in their lives today.


Jesus appears to Mary, his mother

As we pause again on our rosary prayer, we reflect on something that we
have NO biblical evidence for—just as we have no biblical reference for
the strong Christian tradition of Veronica helping Jesus. As Jesus
showed his love for his Mother Mary in life, so we have seen the depth
of that love in death. The Gospels refer to Jesus going back to Galilee,
his home. What could be more natural and right than mother and son
meeting up and sharing their love. In lockdown perhaps you can take time
to reflect with those you love on what these past few years has taught
you: are you going to change? Is the new normal going to mean change in
your home? How will the Church adapt to the challenge of change that has
to come? As Pope Francis reflected to his own civil service:

Here on earth to live is to change, and to change often is to become
more perfect. Newman is not speaking about seeking change for change's
sake, or to follow the fashion, but rather to have the conviction that
development and growth are the characteristic of earthly and human life,
while, in the perspective of the believer, at the centre there is the
stability of God (Pope Francis at Vatican 21st December 2020)


Mary with the disciples waiting for the Holy Spirit in the home of Eucharist

Even after the glory of Resurrection, the disciples are seen in the Acts
of the Apostles as gathered "in continuous prayer l, together with
several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus" (Acts 1: 11). This
picture of the early Jerusalem shows a Church in lockdown. As we see at
the end of the gospels, the apostles are presented as frightened and
scared. They are in need of support and help-Mary fits the bill
perfectly. The founder of the Salesian family, Don Bosco saw the need
for his educators to be involved in their lives of their students
through a kindly presence; this is exactly what Mary was to the
disciples in their grief and loss. She, who has lost her beloved son, is
the one who offers that unconditional presence and cares for them. In
this room of Eucharist, she lives that life for them as she invites them
to REMEMBER.

In our strange lockdown, hopefully we have been able to let go of our
attachments, the root of which means distraction and hurt. Worry and
anxiety require us to buy into, to choose to believe, at least two lies:
• I can control the outcome of things
• I can keep bad things from happening if I worry hard and long enough.

The Gospel invites us to let go of the need to control either by our
thoughts or actions and to try trusting God instead. The promise, from
Isaiah 40, is that, in waiting, we will renew our strength. But it's the
grasping and clutching hand that drains our reserves and saps our energy.

The dormition of Mary

I think it is entirely fitting that the ancient Church speak of the
DORMITION of Mary, of her 'going to sleep.' It is still the case in the
Eastern Church, while we, in the West, have tended to sanitise death.
Death, for Mary, is seen as simply falling asleep in the arms of the
Lord. Pilgrims to Jerusalem will be aware that the Abbey of the
Dormition is literally around the corner from the Upper Room. All of us
have been touched by the death of loved one; each of us will react in a
way that helps us; grief is personal and there is no right or wrong way.
Our reaction to COVID-19 is rightly one of fear due to the deathly
danger it poses. While we naturally want all forms of isolation to end
and pray for the 'new normal' when we can move forward. In the meantime,
let us pause and remember our loved ones who have fallen asleep into the
arms of the Risen Lord. With Mary, we need to be with victims of
violence and war. This is why we have to open our hearts and homes for
refugees and victims of pain. The global pandemic has caused painful
deaths and loneliness, let us ask Mary to be us all "now and at the hour
of our death." Pope Francis prayed for the feast:

"Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, and sustains Christians in
their fight against the forces of evil. The stupendous reality of Mary's
Assumption manifests and confirms the unity of the human person, and it
reminds us that we are called to serve and glorify God with all our
being, soul and body. To serve God only with the body would be an action
of slaves; to serve God only with the soul would be against our human
nature." (Pope Francis 15th August 2019)

Mary the Queen of Heaven and Earth

In Britain we are familiar with royalty and, in this time of crisis, we
look to them for a sense of leadership. Queen Elizabeth II spoke to a
nation in lockdown in stirring terms:

"The moments when the United Kingdom has come together to applaud its
care and essential workers will be remembered as an expression of our
national spirit; and its symbol will be the rainbows drawn by
children. Across the Commonwealth and around the world, we have seen
heart-warming stories of people coming together to help others, be it
through delivering food parcels and medicines, checking on neighbours,
or converting businesses to help the relief effort.
And though self-isolating may at times be hard, many people of all
faiths, and of none, are discovering that it presents an opportunity to
slow down, pause and reflect, in prayer or meditation." (Address to the
nation Palm Sunday 2020).

Queen Elizabeth has been able to capture the symbol of service that true
leadership should show; as Jesus said at the Last Supper, "if I, your
Master and Lord have washed your feet, you should wash each other's
feet" (John 13: 14). She encourages us to reflect or meditate on these
challenging days that we are better than the pain that drags us down.
Even our action of self-isolating or shielding was a strong statement.
It showed that we wanted to help others and stand brightly as a guide to
others-we are ALL trying to do our bit, no matter how small. Another
inspirational national leader, President Michael D Higgins expressed the
feelings of the nation when faced with death and pain; death diminishes
each of us:

"The pain of losing a loved one to this cruel disease has been
compounded for so many by the inability of friends and family to offer
consolation and support in the way we usually would. The shake of a
hand, a sympathetic touch, a comforting embrace, even our physical
presence for those few days following a sudden loss, are not available
to us for the very good reason that we are all involved in slowing and
overcoming the virus. To those of you, too, who have loved ones in
intensive care or who are waiting for results of a test, we offer our
solidarity." (President Higgins Radio Address 2nd April 2020).

The leadership of Mary is exemplified in service; as both the President
and the Queen have shown us, we are called to be there for each other.
In looking at the life of Mary in scripture, we see one who listens to
God's word with total faith; she is there to bring concrete expressions
of support and help. Mary is the one who is there for each one of us. As
we strive to make the reign of God real in the world, Mary is our friend
and Queen. Let us pray during these difficult days with our Pope, who
gives us all a living example of servant-leadership:

O Mary,
you always shine on our path
as a sign of salvation and of hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick, who at the cross took
part in Jesus' pain, keeping your faith firm.

You, Salvation of the Roman People,
know what we need,
and we are sure you will provide
so that, as in Cana of Galilee,
we may return to joy and to feasting
after this time of trial.

Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform to the will of the Father
and to do as we are told by Jesus,
who has taken upon himself our sufferings
and carried our sorrows
to lead us, through the cross,
to the joy of the resurrection. Amen.

Author: Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB

Image: Phil Hearing on Unsplash

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