Guest Blog by Mr. Hicks, IB MYP Language Arts Teacher
Let’s take a moment to think about some of the characters in that Gospel story we just read. There’s a big wedding happening, it is a tremendous celebration. Only there was a problem for the characters in that story, wasn’t there? The hosts of the wedding ran out of things to serve to their guests. Jesus solves this problem by performing one of his very first miracles, the transformation of water into wine. But the character we’re invited to think about is not just Jesus, but Mary, his mother. Mary has just a few lines in that story: she says to Jesus “they don’t have enough wine” and then she tells the waiters “do whatever He tells you.” Meaning, follow Jesus’ instructions, and don’t worry.
Mary is a wonderful person to think about as we start a new school year. It is a new year, and I’m a new person, so I would like to introduce myself to you. My name is Mr. Hicks, and I am teaching in the Middle School this year. I’m new to this school this year, and if you have ever been new to a school, you know that it can be a bit scary. Speaking to all of you right now is a little bit scary for me, even though I’m a teacher.
And I think everyone knows what that feeling is like. You’ve all been new to something before. We’ve all worried, like the hosts of the wedding, if everything is going to work out alright. Maybe this year is your first year at St. Mary’s, like it is mine. Maybe it’s your first time in first grade, or your first days of Middle School. If you’re a teacher, maybe you’re teaching something new that you didn’t teach last year. For every student at least, the grade you have just entered is new to you.
Keep thinking about that: that all of us are about to do something new.
And as you think about that, I want to tell you another very short story about a place where I used to live, very far away, in Rome. When you think of Rome, you might think of the Colosseum, or the Vatican, or gladiators, or Julius Caesar, but I want to tell you about another place that is very special to me, and about the first time I ever went there. In Rome, there is a huge church that was built over one thousand years ago. It is called “Santa Maria Maggiore,” which in English means “Saint Mary, the Greatest.”
The very first time I lived in Rome, I wanted to go and visit this church that I had heard about. But I didn’t speak the language there. I didn’t know how the buses or the trains worked. I didn’t know anybody. Remember how I told you to think about being new to something, and what that can feel like? I was very nervous. But I wanted to visit this church. After getting lost a few times, I finally found it, in the very middle of the city. The church was huge! The floors are made of solid marble, with green, red, and white colors. The walls are made of wood and gold, and the ceiling is a huge, flat rectangle. It’s 302 feet long – that’s the length of a football field.
And in the front of the church, Santa Maria Maggiore, “Saint Mary the Greatest,” right next to the altar, your eye is drawn immediately to a golden box in a glass display case. And thankfully I could read the sign in front of it, because this was written in English. “This is the relic of the holy crib.”
Now let’s think about this – the church is named after Mary, we know a crib is a place where a baby or infant sleeps, and it’s described as holy. Think to yourself: do you have an idea of who this crib might belong to?
Well, inside this golden box is what remains today of the crib of the infant Jesus. There’s only one in the world. And it’s in his mother’s church, Santa Maria Maggiore, “Saint Mary, the Greatest.”
And when I saw this, a thought occurred to me that I had never had before, and it helped me not to be worried anymore even in this new place. The thought was: “Even Jesus was new to something, at some point.” And if he can be new to something, I can be new to something too.
Jesus was doing something new in today’s Gospel story, wasn’t he? In fact, when Mary comes to him and says, “they have no wine,” he says, “What do you want with me? My hour has not yet come.” That is surprising, isn’t it? Even Jesus is saying: “is it really time for me to start this new thing? Are you sure?”
So it’s not just Jesus who saves the day in this story, it’s Mary too.
Mary is always there for us at the beginnings of things. Mary is always there when we are in doubt. Even Jesus, who is God, gets his reassurance from Mary: as an infant, yes, but also at the beginning of his work.
Keep Mary close to your heart if you are worried this year. And here’s something that helps me:
We have that very special prayer that connects us to Mary. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”
You can ask Mary at any time: “Pray for me now.” That prayer is like whispering into her ear. In a crisis, it can even be like pulling a fire alarm.
Even Jesus in the Gospel does a version of this. He asks for Mary’s help when he says: “are you sure? Are you sure my hour has come?”
But here’s the real secret to praying that special prayer to Mary. The prayer doesn’t end after you say “Amen.”
Think about it: when you speak to someone, like a teacher or family member, they usually say something back, right? So when you whisper that prayer into Mary’s ear, after “Amen,” take a second to listen. You will hear her say something back. Not in your ears, but in your heart. What does she usually say? Well, what I usually hear in my heart is something like “you should really forgive that person,” or “just do your best,” or “be patient,” or “that person in your life needs some help, don’t they?”
These are all of the things that Jesus tells his disciples in the Gospel, they aren’t new to us. Really, everything I’ve ever heard from Mary is some version of what she says in today’s Gospel: “do whatever he says.”
So keep that special prayer in your pocket this year. Keep it especially when you are about to start something new, or you need to be brave.
And don’t forget to listen!
You will say to Mary, “pray for me now,” and she will say to you: “it’s okay, this is your time. Your hour has come… do whatever He says.”
“Your hour has come…”