My Lord Bishop,

Very Rev Fathers and Rev Fathers,

Consecrated Men and Women,

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Glory to Jesus!

Today, I invite us to reflect on the theme, “Mary, Our GRAND Mother.” I don’t mean “grand” as in elderly, but “GRAND” as in great, ancient, and timeless. To refer to something as GRAND means it is magnificent, imposing in appearance, size, or style, and of utmost importance.

Many years ago, as children growing up in the Okos area of Uromi City, market days held a special place in our hearts. My paternal grandmother would trek all the way from Amendokhian to Okos Road to visit us, never arriving empty-handed. She always brought gifts like ikpeke, amoriri, ekaigai, and ikpakpa bi ori sugar, making her visits pure joy.

Similarly, my maternal grandmother owned a large restaurant at Angle 90 in Uromi, where she served delicious meals. We would eat until we were literally sick. I remember one day trekking from Okpujie Primary School to Angle 90 just to eat Eba and Ikpekpan. That journey took my entire break period, and I wasn’t supposed to leave school without telling my mom, who was a teacher there. Yet, my grandmother never told her daughter, my mother, about my little escapade. That, to me, is unconditional love. Good grandmothers often reserve a special kind of love for their grandchildren, a love that is perhaps even greater than what they had for their own children.

So, it is not unusual for me to think of my grandmothers when I reflect on our Mother Mary. There is GREAT experience in the way they loved us. Just as my grandmothers’ visits always brought good news and joy to us, so too does Mary’s presence bring us good tidings, even today. And this is why today’s celebration is essentially important.

The Visitation used to be celebrated on the 2nd of July. It was established by Pope Urban VI in 1389 in order to bring the Great Schism to an end through the intercession of Mary. It originated in Byzantium when, on 2 July, the Gospel of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth was read on the Feast of the “Deposition in the Basilica of the Holy Garment of the Theotokos”.  The Franciscans had earlier adopted this Marian feast day in 1263, calling it the Visitation of Mary. But after the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council, the date for the feast was fixed on 31 May, at the end of the month dedicated to Mary.

This shift was so that it could be celebrated between the Solemnity of the Annunciation (March 25) and the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist (June 24). 

In the first reading from the Prophet Zephaniah (3:14-18), we see the end of the Babylonian exile, a time of joy and rejoicing because the Lord, the King of Israel, is in their midst. In today’s Gospel reading, it is Mary’s selfless visit to her cousin Elizabeth that ushers in this theme of joy and gladness. Elizabeth, upon hearing Mary’s greeting, is filled with the Holy Spirit and speaks divine utterances: “Of all women, you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Who am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

First thing to note here is that Mary went with HASTE. This speaks of her maternal charity above all else.

Mary was also COURAGEOUS – The road from Nazareth to Ein Karem, where Elizabeth and Zechariah lived, was dangerous for anyone to travel, let alone a young woman — it was notorious for harboring bandits and thieves. The distance was about 100 miles and it was all uphill, as Ein Karem is about 1,336 feet higher above sea level than Nazareth. No easy feat, even if traveling by donkey.

Mary’s decision to make haste and travel to see Elizabeth is an invitation to all of us to prioritize the needs of others and to make sacrifices to serve them, even when big things are going on in our own lives. Mary is a model of this kind of selflessness. 

This is the same Mary who approached her son, Jesus Christ, at the wedding in Cana to say, “They have no wine! (Jn. 2:3). ” She risked much so that the newlywed couple would not face disgrace. She urged Jesus to perform a miracle, even when it was not yet His time, ensuring that the wine, a symbol of joy and gladness, did not run dry.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I know it is difficult to talk about joy in today’s Nigeria. With many of us struggling to learn the new (or old) National Anthem on empty stomachs; with kidnappings and rising insecurity; with the prices of goods and services skyrocketing daily; and with corruption and bad governance weighing us down, how can we be happy?

When Mary sensed a problem at the wedding feast at Cana, she took the initiative and PRAYED to Jesus for a solution. We too must take initiatives for the betterment of our Nation and our State. As we prepare for elections, we must tell our politicians that we have no wine. We have no roads, no good schools, no water, no health facilities, no security of life and property, and no electricity.

Nonetheless, we find consolation in the letter of St. Paul to the Romans (12:9-16). As dispensers of hope, our love for one another must be genuine. We must bless those who persecute us and strive to live in harmony with one another. We must hate what is evil and cling to what is good. We must be patient in tribulation and CONSTANT in prayer. We must continue to pray our rosaries and keep believing that God’s will always prevails, even though we may not yet see it.

How can we do this if not by the help of God’s grace? Mary didn’t fully understand the mission, but she trusted God enough to go it anyway. We must do the same so that we can sing the Magnificat with Mary, “My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Today’s celebration holds special significance for us. Just as Mary’s visit to Elizabeth brought her untold joys and blessings, so too must our gathering here bring us joys and blessings. If Jesus broke rules to turn water into wine at Cana because of His mother’s intercession, why won’t He do the same for us today? Imaria non mhon ulukho, iman digue bhilie…

Finally, Just as Mary On May 13, 1917, appeared to three shepherd children, Lúcia dos Santos, Francisco Marto, and Jacinta Marto, at the Cova da Iria outside the village of Aljustrel, near Fatima, Portugal, so she continues to visit us today. 

In the months that followed that first visit, the children would see Mary five more times. On the sixth and last appearance, the Virgin told the children her name: The Lady of the Rosary. This Rosary brings joy and peace to the world inspite of our present challenges. So yes it is ROSARY CARNICAL. Celebrate Mary. Celebrate the Rosary, and Celebrate your Faith. 

May our GRAND MOTHER Mary, Mother of God and of the Church continue to intercede for us to God, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Happy New Month!