The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lady was very dear to St. Paul of the Cross. It reminded him of his own consecration to God by the foundation of the Passionist Congregation. Today this feast commemorates Mary as the handmaid of the Lord, associated in the mystery of salvation, as a living temple
Mary is blessed as a living temple. In fact she became a greater temple than any made by hands. God came to dwell in her in a marvelous way and sanctified her for her unique role in God’s saving work. At the same time, Mary becomes a model for us. We too are temples of God. We too are sanctified in order to enjoy and to share in God’s saving work.
We can begin as Mary began. Mary understood the art of listening. She listened and she acted. Listening begins with the ears, then touches the heart and finally responds with love. At the wedding feast in Cana, Mary heard the need of the couple, it touched her heart and she responded by going to her Son: “They have no more wine”. Mary did not stop at feeling sorry for them, but acted.
Listening is a wonderful ministry. Some years ago a lady was sharing a problem with me. As she was doing so, I thought ahead for an appropriate answer. When she finished her story, she got ready to leave. She was not waiting for my answer. But the lady did get her answer in the process of being listened to. The answer was within her. She thanked me for listening.
Listening is a beautiful mode of prayer. Mary shows us by “keeping all these things, pondering them in her heart”. We need not feel that we have to keep the conversation going. God takes the lead. We follow by listening, pondering and reflecting. He will speak to our hearts. “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”.
Finally, listening is also a form of being ministered to. It is comforting to have a confidant. Mary had such a person in her cousin, Elizabeth. They spent three months together, mutually supporting one another. Elizabeth was the temple of John the Baptist and Mary the living temple of Jesus
We are blessed to have a confidant, a temple of God for us; someone whom we can trust and confide in. My mother was a living temple for me. She had wisdom and compassion. When I was a young seminarian, I found my subjects difficult and my future as a priest doubtful. One day I expressed my doubts. She listened quietly and asked: “Do you want to be a priest”? When I answered “yes”. Her counsel was be patient and be trustful, in God and in yourself. It was the affirmation that I needed.
There are opportunities for us to show people their dignity as temples of God. Take for example a middle age woman by the name of Peace. She is an aide at a nursing facility. She was born in Ghana, West Africa. Before coming to the States, Peace taught in her village for ten years. She never forgot the needs of the little children for education. While here, Peace collected books, both discarded ones and ones that cost a few pennies. Recently she returned to her village for a visit to her family. She brought with her the books she collected, and gave them to the school children who had no books. Their faces lighted up with pride and joy to have such a treasure. Peace gave them more than books. She gave them dignity, and hope and a future. When someone asked why she did this, her answer was simple: “They are temples of God”.
The best way we can show our gratitude as living temples is to share Mary’s prayer:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name”.
Fr. Theodore Walsh, C.P.