The connection of the Lenten Season with Mary is not always the most obvious. The Stations of the Cross as do the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary give us some insight of the Passion of Jesus Christ through the eyes of Mary.
During Lent, Mary is the ideal companion for us since it is in Lent that that she places her special role as the shelter of sinners and comforter of the afflicted. It is also during this season that we focus our hearts and minds to the contemplation of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ.
Simply, Mary, as our guide through Lent helps us search for Jesus and then leads us directly to the cross on Calvary, and while at the cross, we are then given to Mary and she is given to us.
Today we are going to draw from three great minds of the 20th century to help us understand the Lenten themes with Mary as our guide. They are Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger aka Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope St. John Paul II.
Hans Urs Von Balthasar – Mary for Today
“Mary plays a mysterious role at the Wedding at Cana. The couple whose wedding is was there clearly friends of the family in Nazareth…Mary is one among many other guests. But she is the first to notice the embarrassing situation these probably not very well off people are in…what is noted here is Mary’s awareness of the need of the poor and her instinctive feeling that her son must know about it and can somehow provide help…
And then it is as if the whole scene had moved up onto a higher plane. Jesus has started on his ministry: he is no longer this person’s son. And in his ministry he no longer sees Mary as his own mother but as “the woman”, the other, the “helpmate”, who however will only start in her own proper role when he finally, on the Cross, becomes the “New Adam”. She has already suffered: the sword has already pierced her soul. He on the other hand is only now marching toward his ‘hour’.”
Mary is not just one who leads us closer to Christ in Lent, she is always leading us closer to Christ for it is he who will cure us of our sins, he who will turn water into wine for us, and it’s his sacrifice on the cross that gives us all.
Focusing on the embarrassment of the situation, how many times are we embarrassed by our actions and words, our very sins? How many times do I feel embarrassed to be call myself a Catholic Christian when I do things contrary to what I know is the right thing?
The words “Do whatever he tells you” although directed towards the servants, have meaning for us. As Mary guides us to Jesus, that phrase should be in our minds for it is what exactly what every saint has tried to do – align their will with the will of God. We should be doing whatever our Lord tells us to do.
Just as Mary said, “Yes” at the Annunciation and at Calvary, our yes to Jesus is not a one-time yes, but a yes that needs to be repeated, and strengthened during Lent.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) – Mary: The Church at the Source
“Luke’s first express mention of the Cross as an aspect of Mary’s grace, prophecy, and mysticism occurs in her encounter with the aged Simeon…The sword shall pierce her heart – this statement foreshadows the Son’s Passion, which will become her own passion…The Pieta completes the picture of the Cross, because Mary is the accepted Cross, the Cross communicating itself in love, the Cross that now allows us to experience in her compassion the compassion of God. In this way the Mother’s affliction is Easter affliction, which already inaugurates the transformation of death into a redemptive being-with of love.”
At the Cross of Christ, Mary consents again to the giving up of her son. During the Lenten Season, as we walk with Christ to the cross, through the desert, so too are we giving our consent, but the consent to give up of ourselves.
For each of us, we must learn to joyfully embrace the Cross. The joy I speak is not banal joy of forgetfulness, but real joy. The joy that is expressed with reason and faith. As Ratzinger says, “real joy that gives us the courage to venture the exodus of love into the burning holiness of God. It is the true joy that pain does not destroy but first brings to it maturity. Only the joy that stands the test of pain and is stronger than affliction is authentic.”
Pope St. John Paul II – Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer)
“At the foot of the Cross Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self-emptying. This is perhaps the deepest “kenosis” of faith in human history. Through faith the Mother shares in the death of her Son, in his redeeming death; but in contrast with the faith of the disciples who fled, hers was far more enlightened. On Golgotha, Jesus through the Cross definitively confirmed that he was the “sign of contradiction” foretold by Simeon. At the same time, there were also fulfilled on Golgotha the words which Simeon had addressed to Mary: “and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.”
During this Lenten Season, and as our guide, Mary shows us as she did herself at the cross, how to self-empty ourselves. As co-heirs in Christ’s salvation, we take part in our way of emptying ourselves of our sins and focusing our attention back on him and back to the Cross.
As our guide through Lent, Mary also shows to us what it is to have great faith. We see her faith first at the Annunciation where she willingly accepts the invitation of the Divine Angel to be the Mother of the Savior. We also see Mary’s great faith at the cross where she says Yes again to death of her son. Even though the majority of the apostles ran in fear, she along with the other women (and John) stood at the foot of cross in great faith.
As John Paul II states in Redemptoris Mater,
“Living side by side with her Son under the same roof, and faithfully preserving ‘in her union with her Son’ she advanced in her pilgrimage of faith,”…by “suffering deeply with her only-begotten Son and joining herself with her maternal spirit to his sacrifice, lovingly consenting to the immolation of the victim to whom she had given birth,” in this way Mary “faithfully preserved her union with her Son even to the Cross.” It is a union through faith- the same faith with which she had received the angel’s revelation at the Annunciation.
As Mary (and Joseph) searched for Jesus and found him in Temple, in Lent, we search more diligently for Jesus with Mary. The more we follow Jesus, with the assistance of the Blessed Mother; we too will increase in faith, spiritual wisdom, and charity for all.