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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mary and the Motherhood Mystery

    How appropriate that Mothers' Day falls in May, the month traditionally devoted to Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Heaven.  Woodrow Wilson, the non-Catholic President who officially established Mother’s Day on the calendar, may have been ignorant of this connection, but thankfully God’s providence reigns over the temporal powers of this world.
     As the first person to receive Jesus by faith, Mary is the first Christian and the prototype of all believers. But within that larger sphere, she is also the prototype of all mothers. In fact, all motherhood finds meaning within the motherhood of Mary, the one who embodies the perfection of the maternal vocation.
     Consider Mary’s response to the message of God revealed by the angel, that as a virgin she would conceive and bear God’s Son. In her humble fiat, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word,” Mary exhibits her absolute submission to the events that would weave her into the divine fabric of salvation as the Mother of Jesus, indeed the Mother of God.
      Now consider our own mothers, without whose “fiat” none of us would exist. However imperfect our own mothers may be (we are all sinners, after all), we can affirm that our mothers willingly opened their bodies to nurture and nourish us. Unlike men, who can impregnate and then abandon an expectant woman, the mother must allow her whole being to be occupied by this new life growing within her, a reality more evident with each passing month!
     Furthermore, by saying “yes,” a mother is opening herself to the path of suffering, with childbirth only the beginning. Many mothers would tell you, in fact, that the pain of delivering a child is minimal when compared to the pain of mothering.  No one has the capacity to wound the heart or a person like a child can a mother, either through betrayal or the unexpected trials of life.      
     Thus, while we rightfully grieve over the prevalence of abortion in our world, and the tragic refusal of some women to open their bodies to the world’s most vulnerable, we should likewise rejoice at the many women, including our own mothers, who offer their bodies to God in a maternal gift that embodies the very essence of Christian discipleship.    
     We also honor Mary the contemplative, one who had numerous opportunities to reflect upon her child’s divine mission. Consider her visit to Elizabeth, in which she is called “blessed among women” and “the mother of my Lord;” or the shepherds at the nativity, who told her of their angelic visit, words that she would later ponder in her heart. From the early days of her maternity, Mary had a growing awareness that her Son was not only a gift to her, but to the world, a truth fulfilled in her Son’s passion, which she also endured as our Lady of Sorrows.
      All mothers should likewise ponder the truth that their children are not just gifts to them, but to the world, sent for some purpose within the divine mission of Jesus. Thus, the struggles of motherhood are never wasted or isolated, but with Mary’s suffering they comprise our share in Christ’s saving work. In other words, as Catholic mothers often say, we can “offer it up.”
      Every mother can know that their child is an irreplaceable person in the plan of God, whose very existence carries more gravity than we know, and frankly, more than we sometimes want to know. After all, knowledge brings accountability, and it might involve us taking our parental role in faith more seriously, or even releasing our child to suffering or difficulty. And yet, as Mary shows us, there is no crown without the cross. Yes, motherhood is worth the cost.
      On this Mother’s Day, may the tender help of the Blessed Mother be a comfort to every woman who bears the sorrow that only a mother knows. And may they find hope in believing that they are never truly alone, but are accompanied by the Queen of Heaven, who shares in the grace and glory of her Son, and who ever lives to intercede for those who walk with her in the pain and joy of the motherhood mystery.

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