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Madonna with Child, St Elisabeth and the Infant St John the Baptist - Bacchiacca - 1530's
By Deacon Keith Fournier
She was the first evangelizer and the first disciple of her own Son, SaviorÂ and Lord, Jesus the Christ. She gave the first Gospel testimony to her cousin, Elizabeth, without words.Â There are very few records of Mary's explicit words in the texts of the New Testament of the Bible.
However, there is no lack of her presence at the most significant events in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and therefore in the great events of salvation history. She always encountered God - in profound ways - from the beginning to the end of her life. In every encounter, she surrendered to love and was changed.
Mary was there at the Incarnation, Birth, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of the One whom Christians proclaim is God Incarnate, Jesus Christ. She was there throughout what are often called the "hidden years" in His life at Nazareth where ordinary work was ennobled and childrearing forever changed because of His participation. His disciples spent three years with Him, during His "public ministry," but Mary spent thirty three years!
We should remember and reflect on the truth that in the earthly life of the Redeemer, every word he uttered - at every age and stage - and every act he undertook was redemptive, revealing as it does the very life of God and the mystery of heaven touching earth. Because of that, every moment of His presence among us reveals the deeper purpose of our own lives when they are lived entirely for Him.
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Mary was there throughoutÂ HisÂ thirty-three year earthly mission of love. His redemptive presence forever changed the history of the world and can do so in our own personal histories if we learn how to surrender to His invitation to love and choose to live as she did.
The mission of the Redeemer continuesÂ for all who have the eyes to see His presence still walking and working among us; and the ears to hear His loving words still being spoken amidst the cacophony of our daily lives. Mary did, as HisÂ mother and first disciple. His mission continues now through His Body, the Church.
The Incarnation of Jesus ChristÂ forever changed the world.Â Creation began anew in Him. We are welcomed into a new relationship with Him. We are welcomed into His Body, the Church. We are then sent on mission into aÂ world that He still loves as disciples; called to live in the Church for the sake of the world and bring the world into the Church.
Jesus Appearing to the Three Marys - Laurent de La Hire - 1650
Every waking moment canÂ be filled with the invitations of grace, if we learn to discover their deeper meaning and make them our own. If we learn to live our entire life as, an invitation to love, an encounter with the God of love, as Mary did, we will find our lives transformed by the Son whom she bore for the whole world.
She was the first evangelizer and the first disciple of herÂ Son Jesus. She gave the first Gospel testimony to her cousin, Elizabeth, without words, as the Redeemer in her womb drew the child in her womb, John the Baptizer, to Himself. He did so fromÂ Mary's womb. Jesus, Love Incarnate, drew John from the very first home of the whole human race, a mother's womb, into his unique mission in the plan of salvation.
At the beginning of that missionary encounter, Elizabeth greeted Mary with profound humility, saying "who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Then the son in her own womb became the first convert "in utero" as he leapt in praise of the One through whom the universe was created,Â taken residence in Mary's womb, a living tabernacle.
John the Baptizer, the last Prophet of Old Testament and first of the New, was prepared in a womb - and drawn by this amazing grace - without a word being spoken, through Mary's witness of surrendered love. This event, traditionally called "The Visitation," recorded in the Gospel of St. Luke (Luke l: 39-45), is meant to continue in our lives as we carry Jesus forward in time. It can through the witness of our surrendered lives of love.
In the Biblical account, this encounter immediately follows the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary (Luke 16:38) and is a fruit of her humble obedient response to the word of God which she was most certainly attuned to hearing. That response was not a onetime reaction. It was the fruit borne from a life of surrendered love and it stretched forward to characterize and inform her entire life.
Mary was there at the Wedding Feast at Cana in Galilee, when the first of the Lord's "signs" occurred - in a response to and as a fruit of - her intercession. It was there she gave that sage and still relevant advice to all those in attendance at that wedding and to all who throughout human history seek to follow her Son, "Do whatever He tells you".
She was there on the great day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, and witnessed the extraordinary clothing with the Holy Spirit that transformed and empowered the early disciples. That same Holy Spirit had inspired her own unique missionary vocation.
Mary understood this work of the Holy Spirit unlike anyone in history. She had been clothed in that wonderful gift when she was first visited by the angel and "overshadowed." It empowered her to live her whole life in complete surrender to God's will and to thereby prefigure the mission of the entire Christian community throughout history. She was the first disciple.Â
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