In the homily delivered by the celebrant last week during the Feast of the Assumption of Mother Mary on 15th Aug 2008, the often asked question “Why do Catholics worship Mary?” was raised. Shouldn’t Catholics be worshipping God instead, the supreme being, rather than a mere mortal? Isn’t God more important than Mary? What has Mary done to receive the reverence of Catholics? Indeed why?
To put the understanding of Mary in its proper perspective, Catholics do not worship Mary, for worship is only for God. Mary is being honoured as the chosen one to assume a very special role in God’s plan of salvation.
In the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, an invitation was extended from God to her. She was invited to bear the Son of God. Amongst all women, that invitation went only to Mary. God knew that Mary would accept that invitation. Nevertheless, the focus was on Mary. Yes or no, the choice was hers. She can reject that invitation. However, her utmost faithfulness to God was in her reply “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” The Fiat of Mary. She fully submits herself to do God’s will in the face of trepidation that will arrive one day. The Annunciation was not just another appearance of God to mortals found in Scriptures. This appearance and invitation of God sets forth in bringing Jesus, the Son of God, into the world.
During the Visitation when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, arrived at Elizabeth’s home who was also pregnant carrying John the Baptist, it was not a mere social greeting between two pregnant women saying “Hi! Long time no see. How have you been. I see that you are pregnant too”. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” The exclamation of Elizabeth was not just a verbal greeting from herself. It was God’s holy Spirit in her that displayed the utmost respect that was showered on Mary. Subsequently, Elizabeth who was so joyous from this visit, not from just the presence of Mary a mortal, but the chosen woman who is carrying the “mother of my Lord”. Not the “Lord” that refers to the social hierarchy of “Sir” or someone of power and high social standing. It will be the “Lord” who will one day free mankind from sins and pave the way back to God.
The Eve in Genesis that led mankind fall into sin. So is Mary, the new “Eve” that brings Jesus into the world in God’s plan of salvation. If God has given Mary this honourable and special role of being the Mother of Jesus, who are we, as believers, to refute the honour that was bestowed by God on her?