19 Mar Transcribed talks on Mother Mary – How did Mother Mary overcome her faith crisis? – Fr Joseph Edattu VC
The reflection of this article is based on the Gospel of Luke 9:18-22.
Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer
In Luke 9:18, we read, “Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” The meaning of this first verse indicates that Jesus used to spend a lot of time in prayer. He would often go to mountain tops and wildernesses praying for the whole night alone. Though the disciples were with Jesus at the time, He was still praying alone by himself. Therefore, this signifies that Jesus used to spend time in prayer even when in the midst of the crowd. Even when the disciples were around him, either watching him or talking to each other, Jesus continued to pray alone, though the others did not join.
Why did Jesus command the disciples not to tell anyone?
Suddenly, after His prayer, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
Jesus wanted feedback from His disciples on what the people spoke about him. The disciples responded saying, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen” (Luke 9:19). With this response, Jesus asked again, “But who do you say that I am?”. At many occasions, Peter would act as the spokesperson of the disciples. Therefore, Peter spoke on behalf of all disciples saying, “The Messiah of God”.
This is also written in the Gospel of Luke, while a more detailed explanation is provided in the Gospel of Matthew. Upon hearing the response, Jesus knew what the disciples thought of who He was, The Messiah, and so He responded as mentioned in the Gospel of Luke 9:21, “He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone.” By this statement, Jesus wanted to ensure that this secret would not be revealed to anyone. He did not want them to tell anyone about this.
The questions to ask ourselves is – “Why did Jesus do that”, “Why is he so secretive about this”, “Everyone should know He is the Messiah, accept Him as the Messiah and follow him”. However, when the disciples came to know this and proclaimed it in front of Him, Jesus stopped them instantly and asked them to keep quiet. This is not just an ordinary instruction, but it was a commandment. It was not an ordinary request of humility, but it was sternly ordered and commanded. Therefore, it is both an order and commandment. He ordered them and commanded them to not reveal the secret revealed in Luke 9:22, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests , and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
At the time, the people though Jesus was Elijah due to the power He had and they thought an ancient prophet had come back. They said this because of the many miracles He performed: healing of the people, walking on water, raising people from the dead, casting out devils. The people were all too excited and so their impression of Jesus was extremely high. Therefore, they looked at Jesus as a miracle worker, a powerful man of God.
But Jesus, through His words, shows that this is not what He wanted the people to believe. Jesus wanted to be known as the Messiah that came and endured all sorts of suffering, rejection and, at the end killed and became nothing. After that, He had no objections for them to tell anyone. He did not want to be known as a miracle worker, but to be known as the crucified one. This is the reason Jesus wanted His disciples to wait before spreading the news to the people. After Jesus’s entire suffering, death, resurrection, he told them to “Go and Tell”.
Who do you believe Jesus is?
The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Do we want to believe in a miracle working Jesus” or “ Do we want to believe in a loving Jesus who died for you and me on mount Calvary, and rose from the dead”. Many people are happy with a miracle working Jesus. Many people do not want to see a suffering Jesus who carried the cross, shed blood and died. Instead, they are only satisfied with the miracle working Jesus of prosperity, healing, blessing. But the suffering aspect of Jesus Christ is conveniently ignored or forgotten.
Jesus does not want to be known as a miracle worker, He wants to be known as a Messiah who carried the sins of the whole world to Mount Calvary, who went through all kinds of persecution, loneliness and abandonment. Jesus even felt as though his own Father abandoned Him when He was dying on the cross. God the Father, however, did not abandon him even though Jesus felt this way. This is because Jesus was taking the sins of the whole world on to the cross and so the whole world was full of darkness at that moment, despite it only being 3pm in the afternoon.
The worst kind of suffering
The darkness that came and surrounded the whole area was a symbol of the sins that was crucified with Jesus on Mount Calvary. He therefore became sin on the cross. We know that the meaning of sin is separation from God, and so when Jesus became sin on the cross, at that moment, He felt the most terrible pain in His soul. The most terrible pain of his soul crying, “Father, why have you forsaken me”. He felt such a terrible separation that He could not tolerate. Though Jesus endured such excruciating physical pain just before the cross, it was only at that time He took all the sins did He cry so powerfully. That cry was the result of the sins of the whole world.
This is the biggest pain that a person could ever experience. This is why King David, when he realized he committed a terrible sin of adultery and murder, knelt down putting on sack clothes and cried out, “Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me” (Psalms 51:11). Through this, David cried out to God and told Him that God could take anything that He desired from David (kingship, prosperity, wealth). However, he pleaded God to not depart from him- to not separate from him. The worst pain a human being can experience in their heart is separation from God. That is what Jesus experienced on Mt. Calvary, because that is where he took all the sins of the whole world and crucified it on the cross, leading him to experience separation.
This is the cry of every sinner. When we are in love of God, we feel so happy. However, when we sin, we suddenly feel rejected, alone. This is because our soul is experiencing separation from the everlasting love of God the Father.
Therefore, in this gospel reading, Jesus did not want anyone to know that he is the Messiah. This is also because Jesus knew that His disciples would leave him the moment He was crucified. If this is the case, the other people who believed in Him would also leave. Jesus therefore did not want His followers to fall into such drastic experiences of their spiritual life. He wanted to complete His mission- the mission that was brought to completion on Mt. Calvary through the drinking of the chalice. Once the mission was accomplished, the disciples were free to spread the Good News.
All suffering ends with resurrection
Let the whole world know that suffering is part of life. We may have to go through moments of crisis, but don’t be shaken. The moment you may be rejected, don’t be shaken. The whole world will abandon you, don’t be shaken; your own disciples may leave you, do not get scared; Your own disciples may betray you; your own family members may deny you; your mother and father may deny you, don’t be shaken. During these moments of crisis, they will question God asking, “Where is God, What kind of God is this?”. These questions should not arise. That is why all the pain that you are going through today, Jesus has already gone through and he defeated everything and came back, resurrected, and told everyone to go and proclaim. If you’re rejected, do not worry, remember the resurrection. Anyone facing isolation, do not worry, remember the resurrection. You may be crucified, but don’t worry, there is resurrection. This is not the end, the mission does not end with your crisis. All the sufferings and crisis is only temporary.
John the Baptist also doubted
Even John the Baptist had doubt in his heart, though he was Elijah himself and so powerful. This is found in the Gospel of Luke 7:18 “The disciples of John reported all these things to him. So John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, are you the one who is to come or, are we to wait for another”. John the Baptist is the one who baptized Jesus, witnessing the heavens opening and the holy spirit like a dove descending on Jesus. He is the one who heard the voice of the heavenly Father saying, “This is my son with whom I am well pleased”. John the Baptist was a witness to this. He saw the miracle of hearing the voice of the heavenly Father. He saw and he heard, but still doubted Jesus. This may have been because, whist he was in prison, he may have been waiting for Jesus to visit him or at least to send His disciples to meet him. He must have expected Jesus to visit him in prison and support him. John the Baptist could have also expected a miracle of Jesus setting him free. With all these thoughts, John the Baptist may have started to doubt, leading him to ask the question, “Is he the real Messiah”.
John the Baptist must have assumed that if this Jesus could not help him, how would he be able to help the entire world. Therefore, with these doubts, he sent forth his disciples to confirm with Jesus. When these two disciples reached Jesus, He responded to them saying, “Go and tell John the Baptist what they have seen and heard”. The see refers to the Miracles performed by Jesus, while the hear refers to the good news. This was as a reminder to John the Baptist to what he had seen and heard at the time of the baptism of the Lord.
This is exactly what happened to Jesus’s disciples at the time of His arrest, where all the disciples ran away leaving their clothes behind. Every one of the disciples abandoned Jesus. Then Jesus was taken to Mt. Calvary. Throughout the Journey, Jesus was alone. However, with his Mother following him and, from behind John, who was influential at the time.
Mother Mary went through suffering after suffering
Mother Mary was the first to witness the Good News of Jesus when she heard the message of Angel Gabriel telling her that she will give birth to a baby who will be called Son of the Most High God, who will reign over the house of Jacob, will be great, with His kingdom lasting forever. This was the annunciation. At the time of the annunciation, there was no bad news, only good news. The angel did not mention anything about the crucifixion. The Angel did not give any hint of the suffering and passion. Mother Mary did not hear any bad news and that is why she responded saying “Here is the hand maid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word”. However, from the next day onwards, Mother Mary went through suffering after suffering.
The first suffering Mother Mary had to face was the family problem of Joseph considering to divorce her. Then, she had to bring Jesus up. Later on, Jesus started His mission by preaching and everyone started accusing Jesus and so Mother Mary had to bear all this pain.
Furthermore she witnessed Jesus being bound by chains and carrying the cross to Mt. Calvary. Though the Angel Gabriel did not inform her directly about this, Angel Gabriel told her that Jesus was going to be the Messiah who would reign over the house of Jacob and sit on the throne of His ancestor, David and that His Kingdom would last forever. However, what must have Mother Mary thought as she was standing under the cross, looking at the body of Christ, while he was bleeding and dying. She must have been wondering whether this was the end, whether this is what she had been waiting for. She must have wondered where the throne of the ancestor of David was or where the promises were.
Mother Mary never doubted God
This is how you and me would have thought, if we were to be in the mother’s place. We would have assumed that everything we had witnessed and seen through the years is nothing more than an hallucination or an imagination. If we were there in the place of Mother Mary, we would have been looking around for one person, Angel Gabriel. However, Mother Mary was there, standing under the cross silently, went through the heart piercing pain and, at no point did she doubt the existence of God. She did not proclaim at any point saying that she believed and trusted in God but now everything is in vain and has gone to waste. Instead, she saw the death of her son, she saw the body of Jesus being buried in the tomb. But still, she did not give up her hope, she did not doubt the annunciation. She did not stop following the teaching of Jesus. Instead, she was instrumental in bringing all the disciples together and making them pray in the upper room for 40 days. At the end, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Mother Mary was the reason behind the Pentecost. She united all of them, and that is why Pentecost happened.
Mother Mary’s secret to faith
What made Mother Mary believe this? What was the guarantee in her heart? She was not informed of any suffering or pain, yet she believed without questioning or doubts. How did she not doubt Jesus?The reason is written in Luke2:19, “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart”. These words being the messages of all the prophets and angel Gabriel. The mention of Mother Mary treasuring all the words is also written in the Gospel of Luke 2:51, after the finding of Jesus in the temple. What she heard and what she saw were the things that she kept in her heart.
This is exactly what Jesus told John the Baptist, “Remember what you have seen and what you have heard”. Mother Mary remembered all that she had seen and heard. That is why in the moments of her biggest crisis, she did not lose her hope and faith. She did not doubt the existence of God because she had the word of God in her heart. That is the secret of the faith of Mother Mary.
Remember the times you felt God’s presence
This is what we need to remember. We need to look back at our past and remember the number of times our prayers have been answered. How many times did we kneel down and tell Jesus saying “Lord I believe you are there”? How many times have we experienced the tangible presence of God in our lives? Now, when we are having crisis, how did we lose faith and start doubting? This is because, somewhere in our busy life we have forgotten what we have seen and heard. In our busy life, we tend to forget what God has done for us, His protection and, all of the answered prayers, leading us to doubt his existence at times of difficulties.
Where and when did we fall down? The answer is in Revelation 2:4 “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first”. This means that you were so full of faith and, somewhere you got lost because you have forgotten what you have seen and heard in your life.
Treasure the word in your heart
“I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you” -Psalm 110:11. This means that if you keep the word of God in your heart and ponder over it, you will not sin against God. Many people commit sin because they do not know the word of God, because they do not ponder on the scripture. This is evident in Psalms 119:11 “I treasure your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you”.
“How can young people keep their way pure? By guarding it according to your word” If the people read the word of God every day, they will keep holiness. When God was leading the people of Israel out of Egypt, God said to them “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6). This is why each one of us are requested to keep reading the word of God so that His word will be kept in our hearts. “Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when your rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7). Talk to your family and children about the word of God, because this is the commandment of God. This needs to be done not only at Church, but inside our families and homes, at all times. By reading the word, we remember Jesus because the word became flesh. Colossians 3: 16 states “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God”. The Lord says let the word of Christ dwell in your richly. This does not mean just one or two quotes from the bible, but as many as possible. When Jesus was being tempted in the desert, He kept reciting quotes in the bible. In those days, books of the bible were not available. However, scrolls of various books of the bible were stored in the synagogue. He would go to the synagogue to read the scriptures. The disciples of Jesus knew the bible as they continually quoted various parts of the old testament. The word of God dwelt in their hearts. With gratitude in your heart, sing songs of praise to the Lord. We sing as an act of worship to our Lord Jesus as it makes God happy.
“For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” -Ephesians 6:12. We need to protect ourselves from such things. “Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14). The belt, breastplate are weapons of defense to defend yourself. While, the word of God is the weapon of attack. Then you will see the enemy, in the form of devil, flea away from you. Jesus not only had the weapons of defense, but also the word of God with which he attacked the devil. The only weapon given to us is the word of God to attack the devil. Otherwise, all throughout our life we will end up only defending and they will be no one left with us.
So let us take the bible, use the word and recite the word. Let us teach our children and use the word of God all the time- then only will we see the Church becoming powerful.