Archbishop Lori’s Homily: Marian Rosary Congress

Marian Rosary Congress
Broadcast on EWTN/Live-streamed
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Washington, D.C.
September 26, 2020

“Do Whatever He Tells You” 

During this Marian Rosary Congress, you have been mediating on the Wedding Feast at Cana, the first of the “signs”, the divine indicators, if you will, of Jesus’ messianic mission. In that Gospel scene, the Blessed Virgin Mary played a leading role. Sensing the plight of a newly married couple who had run out of wine at their wedding feast, Mary interceded with her Son, just as she intercedes for us now in heaven. It was Mary, who prompted Jesus to work his first miracle, namely, changing water into wine, and not just any wine, but rather, the finest vintage. Moreover, the Mother of Jesus was involved in the miracle itself, for she told the waiters, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). Ever thereafter, Mary’s words have applied to all of Jesus’ disciples. She who intercedes for us in our needs, also tells us, “Do whatever he tells you.” For, at the heart of discipleship, is a spirit of loving obedience and docility, qualities of mind and heart that we can most assuredly acquire through the daily recitation of the Most Holy Rosary.

When Mary addressed those words to the waiters, and then to ourselves, she was not teaching us merely an abstract principle of the spiritual life. Rather, she spoke from her own heart, a heart that was “full of grace”. This we see in the Gospel just proclaimed, a Gospel in which we witness the mystery of the Annunciation. Hearing this Gospel yet again gives you and me a graced opportunity to encounter and absorb Mary’s loving obedience to the divine Word, so that, in our daily life, we will indeed be enabled to do whatever the Lord asks of us. I invite you, then, to spend a few moments prayerfully considering anew the mystery of the Annunciation, so that we respond to the Lord as once Mary did.

Mary Conceived the Word of God in Her Heart 

Ancient Christian writers are fond of saying that the Blessed Virgin Mary conceived God’s Word in her heart before she conceived the Divine Word in her womb (Cf. e.g., Augustine, Discourses, 215, 4). That statement is profoundly true. By a singular grace, God preserved Mary from the stain of original sin, and, accompanied by the grace of the Holy Spirit, she refrained from all forms of personal sin throughout her life.

As a result, no shadow of sin darkened her intellect or her heart as she ‘meditated on the Law of the Lord day and night’ (Cf. Ps. 119:97). Indeed, she absorbed the teaching of the Law and the Prophets, not as a heavy obligation to be borne, but as the path to true freedom and unalloyed joy in her life. Indeed, we can say of Mary that she came to embody in purest form the truest hopes of the people of Israel for that definitive deliverance that God had promised his people throughout their long history.

Yet, we must say more about this! Mary, like other New Testament figures, stands at the frontier between the time of preparation and the time of fulfillment. Not only did Mary’s faith look back on the promises God had made to Israel; so too, her faith looked ahead, in ways that perhaps even she did not yet grasp. For, as she absorbed the Law and Prophets, again by a singular grace, Mary had begun to the live the Beatitudes her Son one day would preach, and to share in the Risen Life her Son would one day manifest. Indeed, in this Daughter of Zion, the hope of Israel came to fulfillment.

“Be It Done To Me According to Thy Word” 

All this and more was rolled up into the Angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). The Angel was addressing not only a sinless heart, but also a perfectly docile heart, a heart that was ready to do whatever the Lord asked of her, no matter how difficult, no matter how improbable. Indeed, the root of the word “obedience” means “to listen” – that is to say, to turn one’s entire being towards the Lord and to listen to the Lord with undivided, rapt attention. This Mary had done her whole life long and now she was about to listen and respond to the Angel’s announcement, described dramatically by that eminent preacher, St. Bernard of Clairvaux: “You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a Son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits your answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him.

We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavy upon us” (Bernard of Clairvaux, Hom. 4, 8-9).

In response to the Angel’s announcement, that announcement upon which the history of the whole world pivots, the Blessed Virgin Mary uttered immortal words that stand as the model response of every Christian to anything and everything that the Lord may ask of us: “Let it done to me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). In uttering those words, Mary conceived the Son of God by the power of the Spirit, and opened the way for you and me to become the adopted children of God (cf. Gal. 4:4-7), sons and daughters of the Father who listen attentively to the Incarnate Word of God and respond in loving obedience to Mary’s urging, “Do whatever he tells you!”

Mary Accompanies and Intercedes for Us 

Two millennia have come and gone since the Annunciation and the Wedding Feast of Cana, yet in and through the sacramental life of the Church the voice of Mary in the Scriptures still resounds in our hearts. Mary who joined the Apostles and the first followers of Christ in prayer, Mary who took part in the earliest celebrations of the Holy Eucharist (cf. AA 1:12-14; 2:42; St. John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, №. 53), now is present with us whenever we gather for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Mary is present with us, as we celebrate, not the wedding feast of Cana, but indeed the marriage feast of Christ and the Church, the Lamb and his Bride.

Just as Mary drew close to that couple in Cana in their hour of need, so too Mary draws close to us in our needs, both spiritual and material, and all of us, dear friends, have experienced Mary’s maternal love as we struggle to make our way through this “valley of tears”. Yet, Mary’s care for us is not that of an indulgent mother who secures for us whatever we ask of her, be it for weal or for woe. Rather, Mary’s love for us a deeply genuine, springing as it does from a heart so pure and obedient that it unlocked God’s boundless compassion for the entire human race. Mary is our spiritual mother, and as such, her greatest ambition for you and me is that we, like she, would turn our hearts towards the Lord, listen to him in love, and then, like the waiters in Cana of Galilee, ‘do whatever the Lord tells us to do.’ This surely includes obeying the Commandments in the spirit of the Beatitudes, but it also includes a docile acceptance of the vocation God has mapped out for us, and the crosses that come our way in the course of our daily lives.

When, indeed, we consent to the loving will of God with obedient hearts, even when such obedience seems difficult and costly, then we will experience the loving kindness of our God, along with untold and unexpected blessings, such that we too can say with Mary, “The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name” (Luke 1:49). May God bless you and keep you in his love!

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori was installed as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore May 16, 2012.

Prior to his appointment to Baltimore, Archbishop Lori served as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., from 2001 to 2012 and as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington from 1995 to 2001.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Lori holds a bachelor's degree from the Seminary of St. Pius X in Erlanger, Ky., a master's degree from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg and a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1977.

In addition to his responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori serves as Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and is the former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.