Mary of Nazareth made the difficult but beautiful journey from contemplative nonviolence to active nonviolence to prophetic nonviolence. She was faithful to the God of peace and the journey to God. She loved God, loved her neighbors and in her prophetic call for justice, loved her enemies. She was a pilgrim of peace, and never turned away from her mission of nonviolence.
As followers of Mary and her son Jesus we too have to start the pilgrimage of peace from contemplative nonviolence to active nonviolence to prophetic nonviolence. In these times of war, nuclear weapons, terrorism, global poverty, corporate greed, executions, and violence, we can not sit back in silence.
Each one of us has to take up that Gospel journey. That means we all have to start anew down the road of nonviolence. We have to turn to God in peace, allow God to disarm our hearts, go forth to our neighbors in need, love our enemies and proclaim God’s revolutionary nonviolence to the world. We have to practice Gospel nonviolence, within us, around us, and publicly in our world. We have to live God’s gift of peace in our hearts, practice it among our family, friends, and communities, and proclaim it publicly to the warmaking authorities. We have to announce the social, political and economic consequences of God’s reign of justice here and now through steadfast, provocative, prophetic nonviolence, as the epitome of the spiritual life.
Mary’s experience at the Annunciation, Visitation and the proclamation of the Magnificat offers a shining example of committed nonviolence to a world of brutal injustice and war. Her faithful nonviolence gave birth to a nonviolent messiah who turned over the tables of systemic injustice, suffered martyrdom with love and forgiveness and rose from the dead to draw all humanity back to God’s peace.
Mary hardly makes any other appearance in the Gospels after this beautiful portrait in Luke’s Gospel. She never says anything else in the Gospels, except on two occasions, in the Temple when she asks the twelve-year-old Jesus why he did not return with them (Luke 2:48) and in Cana, at a wedding (John2:5). When they suddenly run out of wine, Mary informs Jesus and then turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you.”
These words offer a fitting summary of Mary’s prophetic nonviolence. She is the favored one of God, the servant of the God of peace and now has become a disciple of the nonviolent Jesus. Like John the Baptist, she seeks to “decrease” in order that he may increase. She wants us to do whatever Jesus says.
Mary taught Jesus God’s way of revolutionary nonviolence and watched Jesus blossom as the embodiment of God’s nonviolence. More than anything, she wants all people to obey Jesus’ commandments of nonviolence. Like Jesus, she wants us to love our enemies, pray for our persecutors, forgive seventy times seven times, seek God’s reign and God’s justice, be as compassionate as God, and put away the sword. She wants us to become, like her, servants of God’s peace, disciples of God’s peace, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers and sisters of God’s peace. She wants us to spend our lives practicing nonviolence and making peace as Jesus did.
Two thousand years after Mary’s prophetic nonviolence, we have toned down her message and transformed her into someone more manageable, more tolerable, more passive. The culture’s false image of Mary does not threaten the status quo. She no longer is portrayed as the model of active and prophetic nonviolence. She is no longer upheld as the spokeswoman of the God of justice, the God of the poor, the God of revolutionary nonviolence. Instead we have set her up on a pedestal where she is safe, far above us, and removed from our troubles. She is stereotyped as a quiet, law-abiding, church-abiding, obedient, subservient woman who does what warmaking authorities want. She might hardly recognize herself.
But Luke’s portrait remains. Mary’s journey sets the whole Gospel story of nonviolence in motion. She was filled with joy at God’s dramatic entrance into the world, and God’s revolutionary action against the rich and powerful and on behalf of the poor and oppressed. Mary understands the plight of all those who suffer from the world’s unjust economic order and its wars. She is a woman of justice, a woman of disarmament, a woman of peace, a woman of revolution, a woman of action, a woman of nonviolence.
The nonviolent Jesus and his mother still summon us to the journey of contemplative, active and prophetic nonviolence. In the past, we might have looked to noble heroes like Dorothy Day, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. for leadership and action. Today, we ourselves have to become heroes, leaders, and saints of active, prophetic nonviolence. We can no longer wait for someone else to make the journey for us. The poor of the earth are dying from our wars and consumerism. The God of peace, the risen Jesus and his prophetic mother await patiently our response to their invitation, their word, their example.
In the early 1990s, I was privileged to arrange phone conversations for Mother Teresa as she appealed to various governors and judges on behalf of those condemned to die on death row. Two or three times she asked me to recommend one of her favorite prayers to those on death row. “Tell them to pray to Mary with great confidence,” she said to me: “‘Mary, be my mother now.'”
In our culture of violence, as we carry on the journey of Gospel nonviolence, we have no better model and advocate of Christ’s nonviolence than Mary. Mother Teresa’s prayer can be our prayer too. If we call on Mary to be our mother, perhaps she will teach us how to become contemplatives, activists and prophets of nonviolence, and accompany us on the journey ahead to the cross, the resurrection and Pentecost. If we ask her, she will help us become pilgrims of peace.
All we have to do is ask.
All we need do is pledge ourselves once more to Gospel nonviolence.
All we must do is surrender ourselves to the God of peace and nonviolence.
All that is required is the next step on the road to peace.
Ave Maria Press