09/11/2006, 00.00
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Pope: Mary teaches us that prayer is submission to God's will

On the third day of his trip to Germany, Benedict XVI visited the Marian shrine of Altötting and referred once again to the "place of God". The most profound essence of true prayer is to give him "a place in the world, in our lives, and to let him enter into our time and our activity".

Munich (AsiaNews) – Praying does not mean giving God instructions as to what he should do, but submitting a problem to him that he may resolve it according to his will. Mary teaches us this with her own life, for example in the episode of the wedding of Cana. Benedict XVI dedicated to Our Lady his entire homily in the Marian shrine of Altötting, where he went by helicopter on the third day of his visit in Germany. Welcomed by tens of thousands of people in the largest and oldest German Marian shrine, where there is a "black Madonna", the theologian-pope turned to the famous episode of the transformation from water to wine, to show how it serves "to learn from Mary to pray in the right way".

He said: "Mary does not really ask something of Jesus: she simply says to him: 'They have no wine' (Jn 2:3)... She doesn't tell Jesus what to do. She doesn't ask for anything in particular, and she certainly doesn't ask him to perform a miracle to make wine. She simply hands the matter over to Jesus and leaves him to decide what to do. In the straightforward words of the Mother of Jesus, then, we can see two things: on the one hand her affectionate concern for people, that maternal affection which makes her aware of the problems of others. We see her heartfelt goodness and her willingness to help. This is the Mother that generations of people have come here to Altötting to visit. To her we entrust our cares, our needs and our troubles. Her maternal readiness to help, in which we trust, appears here for the first time in the Holy Scriptures."

He continued: "But in addition to this first aspect, with which we are all familiar, there is another, which we could easily overlook: Mary leaves everything to the Lord's judgement. At Nazareth she gave over her will, immersing it in the will of God: 'Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word' (Lk 1:38). And this continues to be her fundamental attitude. This is how she teaches us to pray: not by seeking to affirm our own will and our own desires before God, but by letting him decide what he wants to do. From Mary we learn graciousness and readiness to help, but we also learn humility and generosity in accepting God's will, in the confident conviction that whatever he says in response will be best for us."

Benedict XVI highlighted another aspect of the episode of the wedding of Cana, scrutinizing the way in which Jesus responded to Mary, even calling her "woman" and not "mother". It is a way, he said, that we do not fully understand and that we do not like too much. In reality, said the pope, the title expresses Mary's place in salvation history. "It points to the future, to the hour of the crucifixion, when Jesus will say to her: 'Woman, behold your son - Son, behold your mother' (cf. Jn 19:26-27). Therefore, it anticipates the hour when he will make the woman, his Mother, the Mother of all his disciples. On the other hand, the title 'Woman' recalls the account of the creation of Eve". Mary "represents the new, the definitive woman, the companion of the Redeemer, our Mother: the name, which seemed so lacking in affection, actually expresses the grandeur of Mary's mission." Benedict XVI continued: "Yet we like even less the other part of Jesus' answer to Mary at Cana: 'Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour has not yet come' (Jn 2:4). We want to object: you have a lot to do with her! It was Mary who gave you flesh and blood, who gave you your body, and not only your body: with the 'yes' which rose from the depths of her heart she bore you in her womb and with a mother's love she gave you life and introduced you to the community of the people of Israel. If this is our response to Jesus, then we are already well along the way towards understanding his answer." In Holy Scripture we find a "parallelism" between Mary's 'yes' to the Archangel Gabriel and the "yes" of the Son to the will of the Father.

Benedict XVI said: "In this double 'yes' the obedience of the Son is embodied, and Mary gives him that body. 'Woman, what have I to do with you?' Ultimately, what each has to do with the other is found in this double 'yes' which resulted in the Incarnation. It is to this point of profound unity that the Lord is referring. Here, in this common 'yes' to the will of the Father, an answer is found. We too need to progress towards this point; and there we will find the answer to our questions. If we take this as our starting-point, we can also understand the second part of Jesus' answer: 'My hour has not yet come'. Jesus never acts completely alone, and never for the sake of pleasing others. The Father is always the starting-point of his actions, and this is what unites him to Mary, because she wished to make her request in this same unity of will with the Father. And so, surprisingly, after hearing Jesus' answer, which apparently refuses her request, she can simply say to the servants: 'Do whatever he tells you' (Jn 2:5). Jesus is not a wonder-worker, he does not play games with his power in what is, after all, a private affair. He gives a sign, in which he proclaims his hour, the hour of the wedding-feast, the hour of union between God and man. He does not merely 'make' wine, but transforms the human wedding-feast into an image of the divine wedding-feast, to which the Father invites us through the Son and in which he gives us every good thing. The wedding-feast becomes an image of the Cross, where God showed his love to the end, giving himself in his Son in flesh and blood - in the Son who instituted the sacrament in which he gives himself to us for all time. Thus a human problem is solved in a way that is truly divine and the initial request is superabundantly granted. Jesus' hour has not yet arrived, but in the sign of the water changed into wine, in the sign of the festive gift, he even now anticipates that hour."

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