Today’s memorial, Mary the Mother of the Church, only began three years ago with the decree released on February 11, 2018, by Cardinal Robert Sarah while he was still the head of the Congregation of Divine Worship. Pope Francis called for the Church to celebrate this memorial on the Monday after Pentecost. Not only is Mary the Mother of Jesus, but since we as the People of God participate in the life of Jesus as members of the Body of Christ, she is our mother too.
The New Testament records time and again how Mary reveals by word and action that she is the model of discipleship.
Mary answered Gabriel’s request to conceive and bear Jesus, with her response, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Mary then went with haste to share the good news with Elizabeth and to assist her in her pregnancy of John the Baptist. Mary, after the birth of Jesus, is visited by the shepherds and upon hearing their news from the angelic host, she “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). Mary and Joseph care for, protect, and guide Jesus in the Jewish faith as he matures and grows into a young man.
Mary was also present at the beginning of his ministry when she says to the servants at the wedding at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Mary was present at the crucifixion, as recorded in today’s reading from the Gospel of John: When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home (Jn 19:26-27). Mary was pierced with sorrow when the lance was thrust through the side of Jesus, her son, as blood and water flowed. Mary was then present as the Church was birthed at Pentecost at the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14).
Mary is the mother of Jesus, the Mother of the Church, and so she is also our mother. We do not worship Mary but seek her intercession and guidance as we would our own mothers. We also look to her as a model for living as disciples of Jesus as outlined in the examples above. We too are to ponder the wonders and mysteries of God working in our lives. May we resist the temptation of living in denial, running from our humanity and suffering, but instead face and embrace the sorrow and pain experienced in this fallen world so to receive her Son, Jesus, whose arms are wide open to receive us in the midst of our pain, so that he may bestow upon us his consolation and healing.
But may we not stop there. May we open ourselves to the love and empowerment of the Holy Spirit such that we may say yes to bearing Christ and going with haste to share the Good News of his life with others. May we resist the temptation of indifference and uncaring and instead help and support those we come into contact with who are in need. May we follow the last words of Mary recorded in Scripture and do whatever Jesus tells us to do to make his Church relevant and vibrant in our time, to speak out and stand up to hatred, injustice, racism, sexism, and violence in all its forms. As we honor Mary, may we also learn to honor and respect the women in our lives.
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us now and at the hour of our death!
Photo: Statue of Jesus and Mary outside Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, Oceanside, CA, Christmas 2017