Mary, Mother of Society of Jesus – Readings

Mary, Mother of Society of Jesus – Commentary on Galatians 4:4-7; Ps 44; Matt 1:20b-23 or John 2:1-5 

There is a choice of two Gospel readings for today. The first is from Matthew and speaks of the birth of Jesus. The text consists mainly of the words of the angel to Joseph, who was disturbed to find Mary already with child even though they had not begun to live together as man and wife. The angel now reassures him that the child has been conceived by the power of the Spirit of God and hence that God is the true Father of this child while his mother is Mary. Joseph is then told to name the child Jesus, because he will save his people from their sin. The word ‘Jesus’ (also spelt Joshua in the Old Testament) means ‘Yahweh saves’. All this, Joseph is told, is to fulfil what was foretold by the prophet Isaiah:

Behold, the virgin shall be with and child

and bear a son,

and they shall name him Emmanuel

(meaning ‘God is with us.’)

Joseph then took Mary into his home as his wife. He had no relations with her until she bore her son who was named Jesus. The relevance of the passage to is that St Ignatius was convinced that his new community should be called the ‘Company (societas) of Jesus’ in spite of some objections by some church leaders. This conviction was partly due to a promise he received on his way to Rome to get approval for his community that Jesus would be with him.

The alternative Gospel reading is from the story of the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee which we find in John’s Gospel. We remember that Jesus and his disciples were at the wedding as also was the mother of Jesus. In what must have been a very embarrassing moment for the hosts, they ran out of wine. Mary passed this message on to Jesus who seemed reluctant to do anything about it. "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." Jesus does not work wonders just to convenience people, even his family or friends. All his miracles or ‘signs’ (as John calls them) are an integral part of his message and mission. Nevertheless, Mary tells the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Today’s passage ends there although we remember how, through the word of Jesus, water in six water jars is changed into wine. However, it is much more than a miracle to help out an embarrassed couple because there is a deep symbolism pointing to Jesus, the new wine, replacing the water in the ritual jars representing the Old Testament. For the Society of Jesus, too, Mary has always played a significant role in the critical moments of its founding and development. And her words to the servants were words which Ignatius and his followers always want to take to heart – always doing what God wants, all their actions directed to the "greater glory of God".

The First Reading from the Letter to the Galatians speaks of the special role of Mary. She became the mother of the Son, born under the Law of Israel, in order to ransom all those born under the Law that they might become fully the adopted children of God. And the proof that we are truly children of God is that the Spirit of the Son has been implanted in our hearts, so that, we, together with Jesus, can cry out "Abba, Father" for he is now our Father also and we are truly brothers and sisters of Jesus. We are no longer slaves or servants of God but sons and daughters and hence also heirs. In the same way, as Mary is the Mother of Jesus, members of the Society of Jesus as truly brothers of Jesus can also call Mary our Mother and, in a special way, the Mother of our Society.

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