Within Catholicism, special devotional traditions honoring the mother of Jesus take place throughout the month of May.
It is wise— it is necessary— to ground and center any attention we give to Mary on what the New Testament reveals about her.
Three events in the New Testament provide a foundation for an appreciation of Mary’s spiritual, historic, and ongoing role in the mission of Jesus.
The Annunciation at Nazareth
The word of the Lord comes to Mary and to us: Mary, though virgin, is to be a mother, while we, though sinners, are to be children sacred to God. The Lord’s plan seemed to Mary and seems to us to be impossible given Mary’s virginity and our sinfulness. In both cases the power of God the Holy Spirit can overcome the impossibility, but also awaits the freely given response from Mary and from us: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Mary freely gave herself to serve the mission of Jesus, the mission of our Savior, and thus she freely served the work of our salvation. This history of Mary at Nazareth is the map of the spiritual life for all of us.
The Wedding Feast at Cana
The miraculous wine here is “the first of his signs”— the first act— in the public ministry of Jesus as a grown man. Mary triggered this by noticing the poverty of man and woman, and by interceding, voicing it “in prayer” to her son. He complied with her compassionate intervention. She testified to those who would be the servants of her son, “Do whatever he tells you.” In this way Jesus first manifested his glory, and his disciples began to believe. We believe Mary still notices every kind of poverty that besets men and women, and that she continues to bring it to her son’s attention. She also brings to our attention the saving authority of her son, telling us, “Do whatever he tells you.” Mary’s compassionate attention, her intercession for us, and her injunction that we obey her son are at the service of her son’s glory and of our believing in him.
In the upper room where Jesus first gave his Eucharistic Body and Blood to his followers, and where he twice appeared to them after his resurrection, all his apostles and followers with one accord devoted themselves to prayer together with Mary. The Eucharist and the gathering of all apostles and believers in oneness of prayer together with Mary leads to the public revealing of the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within the Church and making possible the Church’s own public mission. We still gather for the Eucharist with the participation of all apostles and believers who are in heaven with Mary praying even now that the Spirit empower us for service as members of the Church on earth.