By Sr M Luka Juenemann ISSM
On Thursday, 7 December 2024, having travelled to Perth to officiate at a wedding, Fr Robin Koning SJ kindly accepted CFE’s invitation to come and speak about the topic: Mary, our Mother: A Role Model we can Relate to.
Fr Robin Koning SJ is a Jesuit priest living in New South Wales working in young adult ministry and is the Director of Vocations for the Jesuits in Australia and New Zealand. He also conducts retreats and seminars grounded in Ignatian spirituality.
Fr Robin began his talk on the evening before the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which is the patroness of our Cathedral, and the Archdiocese of Perth by saying:
“People sometimes question Marian doctrines such as these on the basis that they put Mary out of the reach of us sinful human beings, remote and distant from the realities of our lives which are so marked by temptation and weakness and sin.”
Answering the following questions Fr Robin delivered a very thought-provoking and enriching talk: Is Mary saved by Jesus as we are? Can a sinless Mary be truly human? Does Mary experience weakness as we do? Does Mary suffer as we do?
Fr Robin explained in a down-to-earth way how Mary is the one who is fully living up to what it means to be human, while we are often avoiding challenges in our lives.
“Often when we sin, we are finding ways to escape our vulnerability, our humanness,” Fr Robin explained.
“For example, I might be in a vulnerable situation where I fear I’m going to be looked down upon if I tell the truth about something I’ve done or haven’t done.
Fr Robin continued by explaining that rather than accept that vulnerability, the person might decide to take charge and try to control the situation by telling a lie.
“Or perhaps when a person is feeling lonely or stressed and rather than accepting the vulnerability and turning to Jesus, entrusting themselves to him, they might seek to escape the loneliness or the stress by turning to pornography,” he said.
“Or someone might hurt us in a serious way, and rather than accepting that we are hurt and turning to the Lord for his healing and consolation, we seek to be strong and take charge, covering our hurt with resentment and anger and unforgiveness – again moving away from vulnerability and weakness and into sin.
“In these and many other ways, sin, far from being equivalent to weakness, is our attempt to run away from being weak and vulnerable and transparent before and dependent on our God.
Mary, explained Fr Robin never took this option.
“She remained grounded in her vulnerability and allowed her vulnerability to lead her always into deeper intimacy with God. She could resonate with what God says to St Paul, ‘My grace is enough for you: my power is at its best in weakness.’ And she could say with St Paul, ‘It is when I am weak that I am strong.’ (2 Cor 12:9-10).
Concluding his reflections, Fr Robin reinforced that Mary is not remote and distant from us as some might see the Marian doctrines as suggesting.
“She is more fully human than we are for she does not escape from her humanity and her creatureliness as we seek to do,” Fr Robin said.
“She knows her lowliness and weakness, her need for God, not seeking to escape it as we can; she suffers with us; and she seeks to discover God’s will in the various circumstances of her life, just as we do,” he said.
“Far from being distant and remote, she is with us – a fellow disciple of the Lord, in fact the first disciple. A member of Christ’s body, the Church, and also Mother of the Church,” he continued.