We learn some things more quickly than others. Walking, talking, the alphabet, times tables, and riding a bike come to us in the first years of life. Other things take longer – things of “character” (honesty, courage, patience, generosity).
So too, in matters of Faith, some things come to us quickly. “I believe in God the Father, creator of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ his only Son . . . born of the Virgin Mary.” (Apostles Creed). The Christmas Story, Heaven, Holy Communion, sin and sorrow for sin and God’s forgiveness all come relatively early.
But something, for me at least, has taken a long time to realize – Mary, the mother of our Lord. Please don’t be shocked. We each have a unique path in finding our way to the Kingdom. What comes quickly for some takes longer for others.
So what about Mary? We know several things about her from the Scriptures. She was married to Joseph, yet bore her miraculous son as a virgin. She followed her son throughout his ministry and was present at the foot of the cross when all but John had abandoned the Lord. She was present in the upper room when the Holy Spirit descended on her and the apostles. And this weekend we celebrated her Assumption into heaven.
The glorious titles given to Mary by the Church: Mother of God in Christ, Mother of the Church, and Mother of all the Faithful, (along with the hundreds of holy cards showing Mary floating on a cloud) have somehow hidden her from me . . . “OUR MOTHER in the order of grace.” Universal Catechism 966.
I have always known these things “about” Mary. I believe them. But I watch and hear others who seemed to know and love Mary personally. I’ve been almost jealous of those I see place such trust in her, turning to her as they would their own mother.
So here’s what God is doing in me regarding Mary, my adoptive mother. (It’s a new thing that’s not done yet.)
- I’m letting Mary be a real person. A woman, a wife and mother, with all the joys and sorrows that go with that.
- I’m reflecting on Mary’s greatest moments: her “Fiat” (“let it be done” to Gabriel’s message, her standing at the foot of the cross watching her son’s crucifixion and saying, as did her son, “Thy will be done”. It doesn’t get any harder than that). These were human acts of faith that make this tough little woman . . . approachable..
- I can go to her now, knowing that she looked into the abyss of her son’s murder and kept the faith.
- I can watch her admire her son as a loving mother. “Tim, isn’t he beautiful! I wish you could know him like I know him.”
- Her voice is different than her son’s. (Jesus is sometimes demanding and matter of fact; setting his Father’s Kingdom in stark relief he says, “Repent”, “take up your cross”, “enter through the narrow way, etc.)
She has a woman’s voice, deferring to the power of Her son who is the “Truth”, she has that tender concern for us, saying softly, “How are you doing with this? Are you okay? Are you getting what my son is saying?”
- I used to resist thinking of myself as “her child”, fearing being “childish”. It feels more like my mother trying to get me to understand my older brother – – – Jesus. “Tim, my son is your brother. Listen to him.”
- Mary knows her son like no one else. She knows what is in his heart for each of her adopted children. “He loves you, Tim, she says. Trust me, I’m his mother!”
- Sometimes you just can’t talk to a man, however wonderful they might be. Their judgements we can’t bear. We need someone to whom we can pour out our hearts. Our fears (as men), our weaknesses and failures, our moments of shame . . . all find a place of confidence in her loving embrace. My mother.
- But she’s no pushover either. All her kindness is directed toward getting us moving toward her son. “To Jesus through Mary”. I’m just starting to get it.