letters to surfers

should we pray to mary?

by robert brow

Dear O.,

It is important to honor Mary as by far the greatest example of faith in the Bible. She was told she was chosen to be the mother of the expected Messiah (Luke 1:30-33). When she wondered how this could be, she accepted the explanation that the conception would be by the power of the Holy Spirit. And the child she would bear would not only be the Messiah but the very Son of God (Luke 2:35). She also accepted the fact that what seemed impossible was not impossible to God (Luke 2:37). She was able to believe the word God had spoken to her through the angel Gabriel, and she accepted her astonishing assignment: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word" (Luke 2:38).

Having given Mary such great honor as a woman of faith, we should not give her a place above the eternal Son of God. When he was conceived by the Spirit in her womb, He was already the Lord, the Son of God. She was a virgin, but there is no suggestion in the New Testament that she was sinless. She was probably a woman of prayer before the miraculous conception. And she would have been the first to say that her prayers were addressed to God, and no one should think of praying to her.

What of people who are used to addressing their prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary? Parents know that babies learning to talk call their parents all sorts of names. As our loving Father, God is not going to say "You have got the wrong number, I won't listen to your prayer." God hears and cares about and answers all sorts of prayers addressed to all sorts of wrong names. And no doubt thousands of prayers addressed to the Virgin Mary have been answered. That does not make them the right way to talk to our loving God.

What goes badly wrong is when people get the idea that Jesus is a fierce unapproachable being, and we are more likely to get a hearing if we go to Mary. He will still hear our prayer, but we can sense how he must feel when we treat him as an ogre rather than the very love of God come into our world.


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