Johannes Benninghoff, Youth Minister – 7 DEC 2018
Before Mary’s theological role is addressed, it is important to note how the Church responded to Mary’s significance as Mother of God. As early as the late first century Mary is already being given high status among believers, and rightfully so; she is the Mother of God after all. The Gospel writers included her in their works and so did the various writers of the second half of the New Testament. In the second century the Church Fathers wrote about her and depictions of her even began appearing in the catacombs. Churches honoring Mary began springing up in the third and fourth centuries.
According to tradition, Mary appeared to James the Greater, one of the Apostles who was in Spain as early as the year 40 (click here for Our Lady of Pilar). There are many unapproved apparitions throughout the centuries. Part of the questions noted assumed that Mary has appeared more in the last 30-50 years and questioned why that is the case. There is no definitive answer to this question other than that the Church has not approved most of them. It can be theorized that Mary appears more because the Church has grown to be a global community in recent decades. One does see that approved apparitions significantly increase after 1800.
Some people claim that there is a disrespect for Mary. It would be helpful to know how “disrespect” is defined in this context. If it is defined as someone simply not having a devotion to her, the answer is that the Church does not require a devotion to the Blessed Mother other than belief in the Dogmatic declarations regarding the Mother of God. If “disrespect” is defined as openly opposing Mary, then the answer is that there is a lot of misunderstanding regarding Mary. Many Protestants will claim that Catholics worship her, while some Catholics may not understand the difference between veneration and worship and thus they openly oppose devotion to her. Veneration is a high form of praise and honor, while worship is adoration. Worship belongs to God alone. Catholics do not adore or worship Mary. Mary is not the source of our salvation. What Mary does is lead us to Christ, who is the source of our salvation.
Leading us to Christ is precisely why Mary’s “yes” is so important. Her devotion to God brought Christ into the world. This is a significant act! It is important to note the power of Free Will. It can be argued that Free Will is often seen as something that leads to evil, and it does, however Free Will allows us to glorify God and allow God’s grace to flourish. This is why we celebrate Mary saying yes. During this advent let us reflect on how we use our Free Will. Do we use it to diminish God’s grace in our lives or to flourish? Let us ask Mary to intercede for us for greater courage and faith!