By Kaelanne Jordan
At the Feast Day Mass of La Divina Pastora last Sunday (May 3), Vicar General Fr Martin Sirju invited faithful to inculcate three maternal qualities that were passed on to Jesus by His Mother: love that must not show favouritism or selectiveness; love that is a caring love, not only in words, but in actions; and love that enables freedom.
The virtual Mass took place at the La Divina Pastora RC Church Siparia, with the theme Mary as a symbol of grace.
Fr Sirju, in his homily, clarified the meaning of ‘grace’. He observed that sometimes persons think grace is something God gives us that is apart from ourselves. Grace, he maintained, is really the presence of God Himself.
“Grace is God and God is grace,” he said. Grace, “…is free, it is absolute, it is unconditional. We do not earn it in anyway”.
Mary, Fr Sirju said, is a symbol of that grace.
“Because when God communicated Himself to her freely and unconditionally, she was able to discern that call and respond to Him fully … And in doing so, she became a symbol of God’s grace and a symbol of cooperation of God’s grace.”
Grace may be thought of as spectacular and out of the ordinary but as Christmas indicates, God comes hidden and grace also comes hidden. “That’s to say if we want to encounter the grace of God what we have to look at is the mundane, the ordinary and not the extraordinary,” Fr Sirju explained.
He referred to three particular qualities of Jesus which were “not put into Him like a chip” but were learned from His parents, particularly His mother.
He gave the example of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and Jesus as the Gate.
“The main thing is that the shepherd loves each sheep personally and particularly, which is why he knows when they are missing.…Jesus’ love for particular persons, is a very maternal quality… his mother would have said to Him ‘You have to love people for who they are’.”
Fr Sirju said that this is evident in Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well and the encounter with Zacchaeus.
The second quality of Jesus is that He cares for His sheep. The shepherd is one who is ready to lay down his life for his sheep. “And Jesus literally did that for us on Calvary,” Fr Sirju said.
The attribute of care, he felt is one particular trait we have significantly failed as a people and as Church.
He however observed that COVID-19 has brought “certain lessons” to the fore by teaching and asking us to “relearn” what caring is all about.
“And so we are seeing an amazing outpouring of generosity that we have not seen in a long time…people are networking and caring and showing that example of Jesus. And again, mothers are good at that…they not only care for their own children but they care for other people,” Fr Sirju said.
Mary also taught Jesus how to be free, a characteristic most parents are “not very good at”.
He said some parents dominate their children and try to control their lives. “But when we look at the Mother of Jesus, we see Jesus loving the sheep going in and out, coming and leaving freely which also applies to us. I think that was something she had to learn the hard way.”
Fr Sirju shared two examples of this: when Mary and Joseph thought Jesus was lost when He stayed back at the temple. “And Mary could have become very strict. She could have imposed restrictions on His life but she allowed Him to be. And she must have recognsied that ‘this child is special and I have to allow Him to be free’.”
The second example is the Wedding Feast at Cana, where Fr Sirju said, Mary allows Him to be, she listens to Him, she respects His freedom to be the kind of person He wants to be in this life because He has to fulfil not her mission, but God’s mission.
“And as she fulfilled God’s mission, she enabled Him to fulfil God’s mission for Him,” Fr Sirju said.