The month of May brings forth green grass, beautiful spring flowers, birds quietly building their nests, and gentle rains to liven up the fields and freshen the earth. It is a time of renewal, new life and hope for the peaceful summer ahead. It is also the Month of Mary, the Mother of God. It is a time to remember her in a special way. Like spring in the air, Mary also can be associated with words and phrases like “bring forth,” “quietly building,” “new life and hope.” As we celebrate and honour our own mothers this month, we should acknowledge Mary not only as the mother of Jesus but our mother as well. When Jesus looked down from the cross and spoke to John with the words “Behold your mother,” he intended that she become mother of us all. She is the Mother of humanity.
Mary, filled with grace, was called by God to bring the incarnate Jesus into human history. She, like us, was an ordinary person just living her regular life until a divine encounter, in an unexpected way, invited her to respond to something quite unknown and seemingly impossible. Has this ever happened to you? God speaks to us in many ways, often with surprise and frequently without warning. Mary, being human, questioned her summons briefly with the response, “How can this be?” It is during these moments when we might forget the power of God and choose to manage our own situation. We often struggle with our decisions and choices but in the end, realize that we are not in control. Mary shows us that if we have faith, believe and trust in God’s ways, that new life will happen.
It is often said that Mary was the first to hear the Word of God and keep it. All of us are called to “give birth” to Christ, to “bring forth” the Christ in us. It is not an easy road. But if we surrender ourselves and reply “yes, let it be done according to your will,” God will and does create new life within us. With this quiet openness, Mary lovingly embraces the fruit of her womb and introduces Jesus to the world at Bethlehem.
Our lives unfold with daily life experiences and Mary was no exception. After God’s call, she set about quietly building her life centered on her faith and her family. She would have offered love, compassion, security, education, and pride in raising Jesus. I am certain that she was also frustrated, fearful, protective and, at times, lost and anxious as any mother is about her child. We have insight into Mary’s reflective spirituality when Jesus is lost in the temple. His response to her about “being about his Father’s business” when she was frantic over his disappearance didn’t calm her human panic but gave rise to her “pondering” about the future of her son and her role as his mother.
Mary was continually growing in depth and faithfulness as the mother of Jesus. We are told that she “treasured” things in her heart when she did not quite fully understand. When the wine was depleted at the wedding feast in Cana, Mary ‘s directive to the servants to “Do whatever he tells you” tells us that she knew that Jesus was able to do the impossible through the power of God. Her understanding of who he was and would continue to be become was stronger for her. She is the catalyst that brings Jesus into his ministry. She introduces him to the world for the second time. Her words tell us that if we do whatever her son tells us to do, that transformation will occur.
Christ’s mission was actively set in motion at Cana and Mary remained part of it as a faithful disciple until the end. She, who carried the body and blood of Christ within her womb, watched as her son offered his body and blood to the world. His message of new life and hope for us through the cross would have been joyful and painful for Mary simultaneously. The heaviness of her aching heart would have been unimaginable as he was brutally beaten and breathed his last breath. Mary understood human suffering. Although she did not have much choice about Jesus’ final days and death, she had to “let go in order to let God.” She let go of her son and knew that his sacrifice, part of God’s will, would be for everyone. In a sense, she gave him to the world a third time.
As a true witness, Mary also knew that there would be hope through the promised resurrection and clung to it. She was indeed filled with joy in the presence of the Risen Christ. She stood among the apostles and garnered strength to continue her son’s ministry with the help of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. She is a true model of discipleship.
Let Mary intercede for us with her Son. Allow her to lead us to him. Pray to acquire her strength and quiet witness in order to guide us though those dark periods when we are in search of hope and light. Let us consent to accepting God’s plan for us. Let us be filled with the grace and love of Mary, a woman who was indeed blessed among women.
Jim Dunn was a Catholic elementary teacher and school principal for 31 years, and also served as Religious Education and Family Life consultant with two school boards in the Greater Toronto Area. He has a Master’s in Religious Education from University of St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto. Jim is the author of CrossWord Christian: Keys to the Puzzle of Discipleship (Novalis, 2017).