« If only you knew the gift of God! » (Jn 4,10) These are words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman that transformed her. She who was unable to make real choices, unable to sustain a loving relationship, was open to others. She proclaimed Jesus, the Messiah, to those who lived in her village.
For Jean-Claude Colin (1790-1875) the gift of God was to belong to a religious family bearing the name of Mary. He found his deepest self in Mary’s family, the Marists. He wanted to carry Jesus, the love of God, to the world as Mary had done in her time.
To be a Marist is to think like Mary. At Nazareth, this young woman had a visit from the angel who came to announce the birth of Jesus. She was well grounded in reality. She asked how that was possible because she was not yet living with her fiancé, Joseph. She was open to the action of God in her life: « let what you have said be done in me. » (Lk 1,38))
To be a Marist is to judge like Mary. After the visit of the shepherds to the manger, after having lost the adolescent Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem, Mary did not understand. She felt overwhelmed by these events. Luke the evangelist tells us: « Mary kept all these things in her heart. » (Luke 2,19) Before judging a situation, she took the time to think things over, and to hold them in prayer.
To be a Marist, is to feel like Mary. At the foot of the cross, in the face of her son’s suffering, her heart was broken. In her heart, Mary experienced joy, pain, anger, fear, peace. She was close to those living through difficult times. She shared also in the happiness of others.
To be a Marist is to act like Mary. At the wedding feast of Cana, she noticed they were running out of wine. She spoke about this to her son, confident he could do something. With him, the wine, sign of joy would never again be lacking. Mary enabled God to act within human history.
The Marist, like Mary is witness to the mercy of God. With the Samaritan woman, God willed that all people discover the gift of God. Life giving water can well up in our lives wherever we are. The Marist is like the person who keeps the well working so that fresh water can continue to flow freely.
The Marist is missionary, sharing this good news to each and every one. Our first Marists set out for the Pacific, the « periphery » of their day, to announce Jesus. Today, we keep our eyes open to reach out to other peripheries, on the margins of church and society, close to those who are far.
« If only you knew the gift of God! » Jesus speaks the same words to you today. Would you like to go with him? Would you like to join the family of Mary? The invitation is open ….