The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Society of Jesus – Readings

Commentary on Acts 1:12-14 Psalm 44; Matthew 1:18-23 or John 2:1-11

There are multiple choices of readings for today’s feast and two of the Gospel choices are commented on here. 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 husband and wife. The angel now reassures him that the child has been conceived by the power of the Spirit of God, and that God is the Father of this child and Mary will be his mother. Joseph is then told to name the child Jesus, because he will save his people from their sin. The word ‘Jesus’ (also spelled Joshua in the Old Testament) means ‘Yahweh saves’. All this, Joseph is told, is to fulfil what was foretold by the prophet Isaiah:

Look, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel [meaning ‘God is with us’].

The next two verses (not included in today’s passage) tell us that:

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife but had no marital relations with her until she had given birth to a son, and he named him Jesus.

The relevance of these passages for today’s feast day is that St Ignatius was convinced 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 spiritual promise he received on his way to Rome to get approval for his community, namely that Jesus would be with him.

Another Gospel reading for today’s feast is from John, telling the story of the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. 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, what concern is that to me and to you? My hour has not yet come.

Jesus does not work wonders just for people’s convenience, 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.

Then 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. 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.

Of the First Reading choices for today, a passage from the Acts the Apostles speaks of the special role of Mary throughout the life of Jesus. Not only did she become the mother of the Son, bringing him into the world to save us, she was his first and most fervent disciple. She was with him always – from his birth, at his death and after his resurrection. We are told that after Jesus was taken up into heaven, the apostles:

…were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus…

In the same familial way that Mary is the Mother of Jesus, members of the Society of Jesus are truly brothers of Jesus, and as such, call upon Mary in a special way as the Mother of their Society.

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