A discipleship of closeness

Monday 9 December 2019

Homily by Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli
Lourdes Day Mass (7 December 2019) 

I’ve always especially liked the second sentence in the Cana story. After we learn that there was a wedding feast going on, we are then told: “The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited.”

What appeals to me is the fact that it was Mary who had the VIP ticket to the party, and that Jesus and his friends only got in as something of an afterthought. Mum was there, front and centre, while her son and his mates were simply allowed to tag along. This seems to be confirmed in the order of what happened. It is Mary who goes to Jesus about the wine problem, so it must have been Mary who was close enough to the action to perceive the emerging disaster. And it was she who knew what needed doing to save the day. The Son seems to have been invited because of his mother. 

We can tend to reduce Our Blessed Mother to a caricature – holy indeed, but also all meek and mild, demure and in the background. Yet, at the wedding feast at Cana, and at the foot of the cross and in the upper room at Pentecost, Mary is there, leading the way. She is, after all, the first disciple, as the Second Vatican Council described her – first in number but also first in place.

At Cana, it is Mary who initiates the beginning of the revelation of Jesus in his public ministry. It speaks to us of the deep understanding that this mother had of her Son. She sensed his time had arrived, perhaps more than he did. A parent’s love that triggers the gift that we now all share in, a recognition of a need that triggers the fulfilment of all our needs. This is the discipleship of Mary, Mother and leader. To borrow that evocative turn of phrase associated with Indian English, Mary did the needful, so that Jesus could do the rest.

How might we recognise the need – how might we do the needful – that will call forth the saving gift of Jesus today? Certainly, there are some obvious needs in our society that we might all readily recognise and act upon. But isn’t it really the small, the intimate, the quiet needs of the human heart that call especially for our acting in the way of Mary? Just as her Son would spend most of his ministry attentive to the person in front of him, to the local communities he came among, and to the quiet requests made away from the crowds, so Mary has always come among us by coming among children, and local villagers, and indigenous peoples. Mary’s discipleship has always been one of closeness, attentiveness.

For those of you who have been to Lourdes, you will know that it is hardly a place at the centre of society. Rather it was a backwater township, in a provincial location. (The same goes with Fatima, and Guadalupe, and Loretto.) Mary does not show us her discipleship of closeness by going to the big or bold or boisterous. She looks for the need that is close by, often hidden, and always unheralded. Yes to the political fight for refugees, but first and foremost learn their name and hear their story. Yes to societal protections of families, but first and foremost visit the family next door. Yes to economic supports for the poor, but first and foremost say hello to the person you see struggling. Yes to providing great facilities for healing, but first and foremost walk with the troubled and wounded.

This is the path of a discipleship of closeness; it is the way of Mary, the first disciple. Do the needful, and trust that Jesus will do the rest.
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