Mary: Model, Advocate, Mother The following sermon was preached by Father Jarvis at the annual national mass of the Society of Mary, celebrated at All Saints' on Saturday, May 6, 2017. "When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.'" [John 2:3] It is a delight to be preaching to the choir: So often in talking about Mary, I feel on the defensive, forced to be an apologist (in the Latin sense – an explainer). With you – fellow Marians – I can indulge in merely reminding you about what you already happily know and already joyously believe and try to practice. Let me first remind us that Mary is our model. It is she after whom we should model our lives. First, Mary is our model because of the way she responded to the angel who told her she had been chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah. Mary could have said "No." One of the ancient legends says that the earth stood still – stopped its rotation – as it waited for her answer. Happily for us, she answered "Yes" to God: "Be it unto me according to thy word." She did not fully comprehend what God was asking of her, and doubtless she had more than an inkling that a sword would pierce her heart. Mary asked "How can this be, since I am a virgin." But when she was told how, she did not, like many of us, make excuses or seek postponement. She did not say, "I need more time to think about this." She did not say, "I'm not really up to what you're asking. You would be much better off asking someone with a better education or with more experience or higher social standing." She did not say, "Why me?" Her response was an act of faith – an act not of certainty but an act of faith. Her words echoed the prayer her son would teach us: "Thy will be done." "Behold," she said, "I am the maidservant of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word." She let go: "I give you my life. I am yours." For those of us who are aspiring to be Christians, the Christian life begins by that same letting go of our lives, by giving our lives to God. "Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee." Mary is our model because she became pregnant with God, filled with God, full of grace. That is the vocation of every one of us – male as well as female – to be pregnant with God, to let God be born in us, to let God's grace fill our lives. When Mary became pregnant, she said, "My soul doth magnify the Lord." When I was a Boy Scout, one of the things we had to do was to start a fire without matches. My friends and I quickly realized that the easiest way to start a fire was to carry a small fold-up magnifying glass in our pockets. With this magnifying glass, we could focus the rays of the sun on a dry leaf and start a fire in no time. That is what Mary means when she says, "My soul doth magnify the Lord." Mary was saying, "God can shine through me to do amazing things. God can use even me to set other lives on fire." Mary shows us how to say Yes to God so that God can be born in us, can shine through our lives to accomplish great things for others. Biblical scholars note that, aside from the Magnificat, Mary said remarkably little. I am tempted to say that many a church person – including clergy – would be better off saying less. People might listen more if we said less. When we consider Mary as our model for life, does anything move us more deeply than her silent presence at the foot of the cross where she says nothing? All the men, except John, ran away. They deserted Jesus when the chips were down. But Mary was there, there in silence. She did what may well be the most important act of the Christian life: she showed up. She was there. Her presence spoke eloquently without words. Mary is our model. Mary is more than our model, however: she is also our advocate. Our Protestant friends are strangely skittish about Mary as advocate. But it's right there in Holy Scripture. St. John, in this morning's Gospel, describes Mary's presence at the wedding at Cana. The bride's parents have embarrassingly run out of wine, and Mary turns to Jesus and says, "They have no wine." Even though Mary does not explicitly ask Jesus to do anything, Jesus is clearly annoyed with his mother – because when she says "They have no wine" she is implicitly requesting him to "do something." She puts Jesus on the spot, and – understandably – he is not pleased and says, in essence, "Don't push me. Not here, not now. This is not the time or place." Mary doesn't argue with Jesus, she simply turns to the servants and says, "Do whatever he tells you." She assumes Jesus will do what she implicitly asks, and that assumption must have made Jesus even more annoyed. But look what happens: Because of his mother's request, Jesus turns the enormous stone jars of water into a plentiful supply of wine. (Now St. John's principal purpose in telling the story of the Cana wedding is to show that Jesus' presence transforms the dull, plain water of human existence into the rich wine of joyful, exuberant human life.) But we must always recall that Jesus does – with some reluctance – what Mary asks him to do. Mary asks; Jesus acts. And we must conclude that Mary is a very powerful advocate. Mary is not a goddess; we do not worship Mary. But we ask her to be our advocate. We turn to Mary as we might turn to a true and trusted friend to ask for her help: "Pray for us, now and at the hour of our death. Pour for us to God thy prayer." And Mary is, in fact, our greatest friend. We turn to Mary because she understands us. She understands us because of all she went through in her own earthly life: giving birth in harsh conditions, fleeing to Egypt as a refugee, and on and on until, ultimately, she witnesses the excruciating death of her own child. We turn to Mary, especially when our lives are a mess, because Mary has experienced all the deepest valleys of human life and therefore understands us. When I was in college, I worked summers on the section gang of the Norfolk and Western Railroad. I was the only summer employee; all the permanent employees were from West Virginia. Not a single one of them had gone beyond the eighth grade and two of them could neither read or write. Midway through my first summer, some of the guys started asking me to write letters for them to their families and girlfriends back in West Virginia. They'd tell me what they wanted me to write and then they'd add, "Come on, now. Make it real good." That is exactly what Mary does for us. Our prayers are feeble and inarticulate, our ability to pray is often at an eighth grade level, so we ask Mary to give wings to our prayers. We ask her, "Write my letter to God; and make it real good." Mary is our advocate. And finally, Mary, our model and our advocate, is also our mother. As the Mother of God, Mary remained with Jesus throughout his life. Happily, she is also our mother, our companion all life long, as she was for Jesus, from birth to death. As the best of mothers, she can rebuke us, show us our selfishness, and bring us up short when that is called for. But as the best of mothers, she can also enfold us in her arms and lift us up when that is called for. For 42 years I have knelt each week at the Shrine of Our Lady of Dorchester. As I have knelt there, I have sometimes felt Mary rebuking me for my insensitivity, for my neglect of the sick and needy, for my rush to judgment, for my undue pride in my meager accomplishments. But how many times have I knelt there running on empty, totally drained – and received everything I needed to carry on. In the Magnificat, Mary recognized the magnitude of her life's calling: "For behold, from henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed." For two thousand years, generation after generation has called her blessed. Pick up today's paper and you will read about the supposedly important people in the world, the rich, the educated, the powerful who think they're so important. A hundred years from now, Trump will barely be remembered. How many of you could name who was president or who was king of England, then the most powerful nation on earth, a hundred years ago in 1917? But for 2000 years, generation after generation has turned to someone whom the world of her time regarded as a nobody: Mary the nobody Jewish peasant girl chosen to be the Mother of God. The supposedly powerful people of the world – the somebodies – come and go, rise up and are then forgotten, lost in oblivion. But until the end of time – a hundred years from now, a thousand – people will still be lighting candles at shrines of Mary all over the world. If we need, in conclusion, a word for the road, a summary of our own calling, we do not have to look further than Mary's very brief words to the steward of the wedding at Cana. Her words there will forever stand as the best advice ever given to aspiring Christians: "Do whatever he tells you." We know that doing whatever Jesus tells us is hard, and that is why we ask for Mary's help as we seek to follow Our Lord as his modern day disciples. True discipleship is costly. As Theodore Parker Ferris often reminded us, "If your Christianity is not costing you, it is not Christianity." Following Jesus is hard, costly. And that is why we turn to Mary – our model, our advocate, our mother – and beseech her help: "Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ."