One good way to prepare for a Marian event is to spend a few minutes each of nine days some time prior to the occasion by meditating on the gospel readings provided below. These are all the passages in the four gospels that mention Mary (or Jesus’ mother).
They will help you get to know her better and learn much from her. Notice how quiet she is, how humble, and simple: no fanfare or boasting after God’s momentous Annunciation through his archangel, or when shepherds reported the glorious apparition of angels at Jesus’ birth, or after the Presentation in the temple in the presence of prophets, or when visited by wise visionaries from the east. Mary’s Song, filled with profound spiritual wisdom, was spoken in the hearing of just one person, Elizabeth. At the wedding feast in Cana she acted behind the scenes to alert Jesus concerning the shortage of wine – allowing Jesus to be glorified, not herself. Superficiality finds no place in this exemplary saint par excellence.
Everyone should learn from Mother Mary. Those who crave to be noticed and admired at every social function and religious gathering, should learn from her. Those who pride themselves for their exceptional talents and accomplishments, their superior knowledge and personality, should learn from her. Those who are puffed-up by the gift of the gab, who broadcast their pious utterances and cute remarks for the sake of fame and recognition, should learn from her.
In honour of Mary’s position as the Mother God, you may also use this novena to ask her intercession for prayer requests. She is full of grace, but does not keep them for herself. She will give them to you and, as a loving mother, will ask for more graces from God on your behalf.
At the end of each meditation, please answer the question(s) in a thoughtful way. What is it that makes Mary so useful to God that he sends her as his messenger to appear on earth again and again ever since the first century of the Christian era?
“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, … Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, … Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.” (Mt 1:1–16, NIV)
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High;
and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever;
and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
And Mary said to the angel, ‘How shall this be, since I have no husband?’ And the angel said to her,
‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be called holy,
the Son of God.
And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’” (Lk 1:26–37, RSV)
“Mary said, ‘You see before you the Lord’s servant, let it happen to me as you have said.’ And the angel left her.” (Lk 1:38, NJB)
When God called you to do something, what was your usual response?
At what stage would your reply be: “You see before you the Lord’s servant, let it happen to me as you have said”?
The angel told Mary: “For with God nothing will be impossible.” Do you dare ask the Lord for great and noble things and truly believe that he can give them to you?
“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’
And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.’ Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.” (Lk 1:39-56, NIV)
What does this mean: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant”?
How does one “fear” God? [Please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear_of_God, and Mt 10:28, Heb 10:26 – 31, and 2 Thes 1:5–10.]
The following sentences show what happens to the proud, the powerful and the rich: “he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, … but has sent the rich away empty.” Which sentences in Mary’s Song describe God’s mercy towards the humble, and the hungry, and those who fear the Lord?
In what ways are you rich: money, talents, knowledge, position of influence, friends, popularity, …?
How would you live in genuine humility so that the Mighty One will show you his mercy and do great things for you, and through you, unto generations upon generations?
Joseph takes Mary as his wife
“Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child
and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”’ When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” (Mt 1:18–24, NAB)
The birth of Jesus
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Lk 2:1–7, NAB)
“Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
‘Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to those on
whom his favor rests.’
When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.” (Lk 2:8–20, NAB)
How do the following proclamations impact your outlook on this sinful world? One: Joseph is told that Mary’s son, Jesus, “will save his people from their sins.” Two: the angel said to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.”
If you ask God in faith for a favour, what does it take for you to start conducting yourself as though the favour is already happening?
The presentation in the temple
“When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,’ and to offer the sacrifice of ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,’ in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
‘Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.’
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’ There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Lk 2:22–38, NAB)
What insights have you learned from Simeon’s prayer: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation”?
The wise men
“After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, suddenly some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east asking, ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea, for this is what the prophet wrote:
And you, Bethlehem,
in the land of Judah,
you are by no means the least
among the leaders of Judah,
for from you will come a leader
who will shepherd my people Israel.’
Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared and sent them on to Bethlehem with the words, ‘Go and find out all about the child, and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And suddenly the star they had seen rising went forward and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were given a warning in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.” (Mt 2:1–12, NJB)
The escape to Egypt
“After they had left, suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.’
So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet:
I called my son out of Egypt.
Herod was furious on realising that he had been fooled by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were two years old or less, reckoning by the date he had been careful to ask the wise men. Then were fulfilled the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamenting and weeping bitterly:
it is Rachel weeping for her children,
refusing to be comforted
because they are no more.” (Mt 2:13–18, NJB)
On coming close to baby Jesus, the wise men were filled with joy and, “falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
What treasures will you bring to Jesus?
Here is a beautiful gift we can give to him after introspection and conversion. The wise men, cautioned not to go home retracing their former steps, took a far better route. Let’s ask ourselves: “What’s wrong with the way I have been going on? Why have I constantly thirsted for vain-glory and praise? Was that not pride? Was that not self-destructive in the long run? Didn’t I already know the warning: ‘For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted’ (Mt 23:12, NIV)? What must I do to embark on a new path – the path of humility?”
The return to Nazareth
“After Herod’s death, suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother with you and go back to the land of Israel, for those who wanted to kill the child are dead.’ So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, went back to the land of Israel. But when he learnt that Archelaus had succeeded his father Herod as ruler of Judaea he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the region of Galilee. There he settled in a town called Nazareth. In this way the words spoken through the prophets were to be fulfilled:
He will be called a Nazarene.” (Mt 2:19–23, NJB)
Finding Jesus in the Temple
“Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.’ And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” (Lk 2:41–52, NAB)
If Jesus was the Son of God, why did he need to advance in wisdom? Wasn’t he wise already? Why did he have to obey Mary and Joseph? [Please check Philippians 2:5–9. This is a very important passage.]
If Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus, would they not also be searching for you, their child? How will you express your belief in their love and care for you?
As Jesus lived in obedience to Mother Mary, he advanced in wisdom and age and favour before God and man. How will you advance in wisdom and favour with God and man through imitating her example of humility?
“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’
‘Woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My hour has not yet come.’
His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”’
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’
What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples.” (Jn 2:1–12, NIV)
Why did Mary initiate the action that started Jesus’ first public miracle? If Mary said nothing, wouldn’t Jesus have noticed the problem and performed the miracle anyway?
If Mary asks you to do whatever Jesus tells you, would you do it? Would you carry out everything Jesus tells you in the Gospel? When would you begin? How would you begin?
The rejection of Jesus
“Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mk 6:1–6, NIV)
Jesus’ spiritual family
“Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’ He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’” (Lk 8:19–21, NIV)
“As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’ He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” (Lk 11:27–28, NIV)
This is your mother
“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” (Jn 19:25–27, NJB)
If Jesus tells you that Mary is your mother, would you take her into your own home immediately? For her to be your mother, you would have to “hear the word of God and obey it.” How often would you read the word of God in the Gospel and put Jesus’ commands into practice? Will you commit to doing that every day from now on?
Do the following devotion: The Joys of Mary.