Catholics do not worship Mary. Worship belongs to God alone. Catholics honor and praise Mary for many reasons. First, God honored her by the greeting of Gabriel “Hail, Full of Grace.” The King James Version says “Hail, thou that are highly favored.” Gabriel greets her with a title of honor. Note, he knows her name because he uses it in his next words. So the title was intentional. Angel don’t get to make things up, they can only faithfully deliver God’s words. Later Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, greets her and says “Most blessed are you among women” and calls her “mother of my Lord.” The action of the Holy Spirit at this meeting is very strong and unmistakable. Even John in the womb of Elizabeth is moved by it.
At this point, we can call Mary the “First Christian” because she is the first to receive Jesus into her heart. Her “Yes, be it done to me according to your word” is a commitment to Christ. Her words in the prayer we call the Canticle of Mary shows her to be a model disciple, proclaiming the greatness of God who has done these great things for her and for us. Mary takes no credit.
Jesus honored her in fulfillment of the Commandment to “honor your father and mother.” As Christians we always seek to imitate Jesus.
The praise we offer is because of response to grace. Because of her “yes” our Redeemer is conceived and born into our world. She is a first cause of our redemption. If she had said “No,” God would have found another way but she was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah “that a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” Considering the history of mankind’s rejections of God, we might consider it rare to find someone so willing to accept God’s offer.
We praise her as a model disciple because she is always faithful. We find her at the foot of the cross. She is with the disciples on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descends. At the cross Jesus gives her to the “beloved disciple,” who represents us at the cross, to be his mother. Catholics call her the “Mother of the Church” and our “Holy Mother.”
Throughout the ages, Catholics have experienced a special relationship with Mary, who always points us to her Son Jesus. The miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, the miracle of sun at Fatima, the healings at Lourdes, and many other signs of God’s love at place where Mary has appeared to encourage us to pray, fast, repent, and believe in Jesus.
Father Patrick Toner is pastor at Saint Joseph Catholic Church, 140 West Ave., Plain City. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (614) 873-8850.