Novena in Honor of the Sweet Name of Mary
Dulce Nombre Cathedral-Basilica
Hagatna, Guam
7th Day: September 4, 2008

Based on 1 Cor 3:18-23 / Lk 5:1-11

Yesterday, we spoke about something that sounds so earthly and at the same time so heavenly, literally and figuratively – Mary, the star of the sea, stella maris, a title so old and yet so new, so ancient and yet so relevant, as I tried to explain yesterday.

I would like to add a few more ideas related to this title of Mary, Star of the Sea. First and foremost, the gospel passage today refers to an incident right beside a body of water, the Sea of Galilee or Lake of Gennesareth. It is really a relatively small fresh water lake, but which the Jews back then called sea of Galilee, around which the daily lives of people then revolved, for the most part, and around which many incidents in the Lord’s life revolves, too, this gospel incident included.

My reading of this passage is rather simple. It is a confirmation of what we said in response after the first reading: TO THE LORD BELONGS THE EARTH AND ALL THAT FILLS IT. We are told by Luke that the disciples, who were hard at work all night, caught nothing. The Lord, knowing this, told them to “put out into the deep.” They did. And they caught a draught of fishes, far beyond their expectations after a fruitless night. It was like as if, to my mind, the Lord was indeed reminding the disciples and us, “to the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it.”

Maybe we could use a little reminder every now and then. We live in a world filled with all sorts of exploitation. We exploit the world and all that is in it … with utter abandon, like as if there were no tomorrow. There was a time plastics were touted to be the solution to the problem of packaging. That was decades ago. Now, we don’t know what to do with the three million plastic bags we produce every minute all over the world. Back home, in the Philippines, most of the trash that clogs our waterways come from plastic packaging of the most sought after cosmetic product in the country – skin whitening lotions! The American preferred method of doing away with trash is to get them out of sight. That means making mountains of land-fills in the deserts and in other barren areas of the vast United States mainland. Have you seen the thousands of planes sitting like ducks in the Mojave desert in California and Nevada? Out of sight is out of mind, so people say. But not out of our growing areas of concern!

We do need to face what Al Gore calls an inconvenient truth. We do need a little reminder that to the Lord indeed, belongs the earth and all that fills it. But we have grown callous over so many things. Living as many of us do, in a culture of plenty, many of us don’t have the faintest idea about the limited nature of what we squander with impunity every day, everywhere, in every way. Take water, for instance … we almost think it is unlimited and won’t ever run out. But as predictions go, nations will soon go to war for fresh water. And if the soaring prices of petrol mean anything to all of us, it is at best, a wake up call for the whole world who still believe that all that fills the earth is ours for the unlimited picking.

But you may ask, what does all this have to do with the Blessed Mother?

As star of the sea, Mary, to me, does have something to teach us about this inconvenient truth, that has become a raging moral issue in our times. As the first among the redeemed, conceived without original sin, on account of the grace of redemption advanced, as it were, by God to make her a fitting dwelling place for His Son, Mary is a daughter of Adam and Eve, and therefore, part of the great human family.

But let us say something more about this human family. We come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, as it were. We come from different backgrounds and different cultures. Most of us, as the Greek word hoi polloi connotes are just ordinary folks, who weren’t born with a silver spoon in the mouth. If we go by statistics that ought to bother anyone, a great portion of the world belongs to the teeming masses of the poor, who get by a fraction of a dollar a day to survive.

Unless I got it all wrong, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus belonged to this social class. A son of a carpenter, Jesus was not high born, nor did he aim at being part of the ruling elite in his society. Mary was one of the proverbial and biblical anawim – the poor of Yahweh, who could only afford to offer a pair of turtledoves when Jesus was presented in the temple on the 40th day after his birth.

This same Jesus, later on, was going to declare the poor blessed. This same Jesus was the one who would die poor, with nothing to claim as his own, naked up on the cross in Calvary, and buried even in a borrowed tomb, lent to him through the benevolence of Joseph of Arimathea.

But what does all this have to do with the topic at hand, the need for us to really be reminded that all the earth belongs to the Lord, along with everything that is in it? The idea of being poor and being blessed does have a lot to do with responsible use of the world’s resources. It is the capacity to live like the blessed poor do, with simple tastes, and simple dreams, knowing that everything they plan to use is limited, has a lot to do with the Christian virtue of responsible use of created goods. Being poor, and thus, being limited in what and how much one can use, when freely accepted and integrated in life, is thus a passable standard of what it means to tread lightly on this earth, with minimum impact, with minimum contribution to the carbon footprint on earth, that is our only home.

This all translates to a life of simplicity, a life of uncomplicated humility and hiddenness in God. This is the virtue in which Mary excelled. No wonder, she could honestly pray: “My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favor on his servant. All nations will call me blessed, and holy is his name.”

It is interesting to note that Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a beautiful poem comparing Mary to the air we breathe, air that surrounds us from all sides, air that filters and lets in the sunlight of grace from above. This merits our attention as we speak about Mary and our supposed Christian concern for the environment. Allow me to quote the last strophe of his rather lengthy poem:

Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my froward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:
World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.