Mary, blessed among women, witnesses to the risen Christ
"All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers"(Acts 1:14).
The first person to encounter the risen Lord was a woman, Mary of Magdala. She was one of several women who were faithful to Jesus to the bitter end and did not abandon Him in the hour of His passion and death (Matthew 27:56, 61; Mark 15:40). Among this group of dedicated female figures who played a unique and important role in the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord, the place of honor goes to His mother, Mary, the first Christian disciple and the pre-eminent witness to everything that happened during His brief time on earth.
Pope Benedict XVI says that the Virgin Mary "with her faith and maternal labors collaborated in a unique way in our Redemption." Mary was present from the beginning, from the moment when the man Jesus, God's only-begotten son, was conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary's witness to the resurrection began that day -- the day she said yes to God's will for her -- and it continued throughout all the events of her lifetime. As the Holy Father says, "having become a disciple of Her Son, Mary manifested total trust in Him at Cana" (John 2:5), and "followed Him to the foot of the cross where she received from Him a maternal mission for all His disciples of all times, represented by John" (John 19:25-27).
There are no biblical accounts of the risen Lord's appearance to His mother, but the Acts of the Apostles tells us that Mary the mother of Jesus was one of the women who gathered in prayer with the apostles as they waited for the fulfillment of the Lord's promise to send the Holy Spirit. According to St. Luke's account:
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim (Acts 2:1-4).
Tradition has it that Mary, who first received the gift of the Holy Spirit at the time of the Annunciation, was present with the apostles at Pentecost as they were baptized with the Spirit and began their evangelizing mission. It makes sense that Mary would be present as the Church was born. She is the model for everything the Church is called to be, and her maternal care for the Church, the Body of Christ, continues throughout all ages until the fulfillment of all creation at the end of time.
Mary's witness to the risen Christ began when the angel Gabriel first confronted her with the great mystery that was to be her story, the history of our salvation. Her humble and obedient acceptance of God's will made Mary the first Christian disciple. It also made her the first evangelist, the first person enabled by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the truth of our salvation in Christ.
In her Magnificat, the prayer she said in response to her cousin Elizabeth's benediction, Mary proclaims the Good News of her salvation, and ours, in Christ:
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
"For He has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear Him. He has shown might with His arm dispersed, the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry He has filled with good things; the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever" (Luke 1:46-55).
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Mary prefigures the Church. She anticipates the great homily preached by St. Peter on the feast of Pentecost.
As we prepare to receive the Holy Spirit once again this Pentecost, let's look to Mary. Let's be open to whatever God's will is for us here and now. And, like Mary, let's be prepared to say yes to whatever God asks of us -- confident that His grace will sustain us no matter what.
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