Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mary and Jesus: United by their Yes

Yesterday morning Benedict XVI, having left the archbishop's palace in Munich, travelled by helicopter to the Marian shrine of Altotting, the religious heart of Bavaria which welcomes more than one million pilgrims every year.

According to legend, it was here in the 8th century that Bishop Rupert von Salzburg baptized the first Catholic duke of Bavaria. In 1330, an image of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus was placed inside the old church and, in 1489, the shrine became the scene of two apparitions of Our Lady, giving it a fame it still enjoys today. The church also houses a number of silver urns containing the hearts of all the kings of Bavaria.

On his arrival in Altotting, the Holy Father was received by, among others, Edmund Stoiber, minister-president of Bavaria and Bishop Wilhelm Schraml of Passau. After spending a few minutes inside the church, Benedict XVI came out to preside at Mass in the square in front of the building.

In the readings of today's Mass, said the Holy Father in his homily, "three times and in three different ways, we see Mary, the Mother of the Lord, as a woman of prayer. In the Book of Acts, ... Mary leads the nascent Church in prayer; she is, as it were in person, the Church at prayer. And thus, along with the great community of the saints and at their center, she stands even today before God interceding for us, asking her Son to send His Spirit once more upon the Church and to renew the face of the earth."

In the Gospel passage of the wedding feast of Cana, "Mary makes a request of her Son on behalf of some frien­ds in need," said the Pope. "Yet Mary does not speak to Jesus as if He were a mere man on whose ability and helpfulness she can count. She entrusts a human need to His power, to a power which is more than skill and human ability. ... She does not tell Jesus what to do, ... and she certainly does not ask Him to perform a miracle. ... She simply hands the matter over to Jesus and leaves Him to decide what to do."

In the Mother of Jesus, the Holy Father proceeded, "we can see two things: on the one hand her affectionate concern for people, that maternal affection which makes her aware of the problems of others. We see her heartfelt goodness and her willingness to help." Yet we also see "humility and generosity in accepting God's will, in the confident conviction that whatever He says in response will be best for us"

Jesus' reply to Mary - "Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour has not yet come" - does not indicate indifference, the Pope explained, rather it "expresses Mary's place in the history of salvation. It points to the future, to the hour of the crucifixion. ... It anticipates the hour when He will make the woman, His Mother, the Mother of all His disciples. ... Mary represents the new, the definitive woman, the companion of the Redeemer, our Mother: the name, which seemed so lacking in affection, actually expresses the grandeur of Mary's mission."

Christ and His mother are united, the Pope stressed, in their acceptance of the will of God which Mary shows at the Annunciation. "In this double 'yes' the obedience of the Son is embodied, and Mary gives Him that body. ... Ultimately, what each has to do with the other is found in this double 'yes' which resulted in the Incarnation. It is to this point of profound unity that the Lord is referring."

Hence, "Jesus never acts completely alone, and never for the sake of pleasing others. The Father is always the starting-point of His actions." At Cana "He does not play games with His power in what is, after all, a private affair. He gives a sign, in which He proclaims His hour. ... In the sign of the water changed into wine, in the sign of the festive gift, He even now anticipates that hour.

"Jesus' definitive 'hour'," the Pope concluded, "will be His return at the end of time. Yet He continually anticipates this hour in the Eucharist, in which, even now, He always comes to us. ... Here in Altotting, the adoration of the Lord in the Eucharist has found a new location in the old treasury. Mary and Jesus go together."

During the Mass, the Pope made a special mention of September 11 2001. "Five years on from the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center in New York," he said, "we pray for peace in the world."

After the Eucharistic celebration, Benedict XVI inaugurated the shrine's new Chapel of Adoration. He then walked to the nearby convent of St. Mary Magdalene where he had lunch with his entourage.


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