May is traditionally observed as the month of Mary in our Catholic calendar, and at our Family Prayer Group on May 1st, our prayer focused on the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus. I thought that the prayer offered some wonderful insights into Mary as mother, and I thought to share them in this column on this Mother’s Day.
God invites Mary to a particular purpose, to live her life in particular service. Mary’s “yes” to God was a “yes” to becoming a mother. The vocation of motherhood is perhaps one which most echoes our cooperation with God in the unfolding work of God’s creation. Motherhood is a life of “yes” and an openness to all that the “yes” brings.
Tradition reminds us that Anna and Joachim were the parents of Mary. As such, they were the ones who taught her and who imparted their faith to her. In her own turn, Mary takes what she has learned and faithfully passes it on to her own child. In real terms, Mary shared with her son, Jesus, all that God was for her and for their ancestors, their people. It is not at all uncommon for mothers to be the ones who introduce us to God and to God’s blessings in our lives.
The story of the Annunciation has the angelic messenger from God remind Mary not to be afraid of the consequences of her “yes” to God. We can worry and fret over so much, but the mother that Mary was shows us a courage and a confidence that allowed her to transcend or rise above any doubts and fears she may have had. Instead of succumbing to fear, Mary models a motherhood that rises beyond fear to trust in the goodness of God and of all that life has to offer.
The story of the Visitation reminds us that mothers often go above and beyond in caring for people other than themselves. Indeed, sometimes mothers might even drive us a little crazy, because of the ways in which they show so much care and concern. Setting aside our own needs and concerns and lifting up the needs and the concerns of others is an important aspect of the Christian way of life.
The Nativity of Jesus allows us to get a sense of how deeply Mary trusted God. Whatever hopes and dreams she may have had for herself, for her life with Joseph, for the birth of her unborn child, I can’t imagine that giving birth away from family and friends and without decent shelter was part of those hopes and dreams. Yet still, this mother accepted the reality of her situation and made the best of it for herself and for those entrusted to her care.
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple reflects something of Mary’s understanding that the new life which she had brought into the word was not hers to be possessed, but rather a life entrusted to her for the good of the world. Every mother who looks on the face of a newborn and who recognizes the “hope of eternal life shine on their children”, is a mother who recognizes the profound nature of God’s blessing in our lives. Mothers help us to recognize that blessing is ours whether we are facing good things or bad things in our lives.
The Assumption of Mary into Heaven reminds us that the kind of selflessness that is lived by mothers, is ultimately the kind of selflessness that lies at the heart of the Christian way of life. Mary’s faithfulness in her motherhood of Jesus, from meeting Simeon and Anna in the temple and the prophecy of both blessing and challenge, to the holding of her son’s lifeless body after the crucifixion, is an arc of human passion and care known all too well by mothers.
To call Mary our Mother, to afford her a place of honor and dignity among all the faithful disciples of Jesus through history, is most appropriate. On this Mother’s Day, may Mary, our Mother, lead our prayer for the Father’s blessing on all the mothers of our parish. May all that she modeled for us in her life, be for us an encouragement and a reminder for the living of our own lives. May we never take Mary our Mother, may we never take any of our mothers for granted. May we become - in and for the world - a blessing, just as our mothers are a blessing for all of us.