She was there at the birth of Christ.
She was there at the birth of Christ’s Church.
She is here, now, at Pentecost as the Church thinks of how to be reborn in a post-pandemic world.
Mary, Mother of Jesus.
Mary, Mother of the Church.
Christmas and Pentecost are intimately linked.
The birth of Christ took place in a time of danger.
Though he was the Son of God, there was a very real threat to Jesus’ existence – as well as to Mary and Joseph – the silent, supportive dreamer who took her as his spouse. I’m sure Mary was more than a little worried at this birth. They were far from home, in unsanitary conditions without so much as a midwife to assist. And there was an evil king out for blood. Much blood he got. But, at least for the time being, not the blood of Jesus.
But despite inevitable fear, Mary deeply trusted in God’s goodness and care and so she faithfully followed God’s will for her – Mother of God.
As Jesus grew and eventually began ministry, his mother was there – feeding, teaching, guiding, encouraging. She gave him that push at the wedding to begin the work God intended for him to do and then stood beside him as he engaged in that work. I can imagine how often she was at the back of an angry or demanding crowd. Or, perhaps, she was with a group that was momentarily enchanted but not to be trusted as faithful. I see Jesus, speaking, drained of energy, knowing the fickleness of the folks he was addressing. He looks out at her and she looks back – wordlessly communicating the reality they both saw. As his Mother, she was a constant presence of love and faithfulness. She must have been a great strength to him.
The birth of the Church also took place in a time of danger. The disciples had been promised the Holy Spirit and, sure enough, it was happening. Wind, fire, breath had come into their room, into their hearts. And NOW they had to go with that Spirit out into the world to face the same resistance, the same hatred, the same persecution that their leader, their friend, their God had faced.
And Mary was there! She was ready for another dangerous birth. She knew these disciples well. She had watched as they had come to be followers of her son. It reminds me of watching my children’s friends sitting around the table talking, listening to their joys and sorrows. As they matured, I worried about them as they made questionable decisions and rejoiced with them as they celebrated their triumphs. Mary would have known all the strengths and all the shortcomings of this band of followers. She was probably more than a little worried about how this second birth was going to go.
But despite this, Mary deeply trusted in God’s goodness and care and so she faithfully followed God’s will for her – Mother of the Church.
I imagine her reminding Peter not to give in to his fears or counselling James and John to keep their need for power in check. I imagine her bringing the same love and faithfulness to her son’s friends as she brought to her son. I imagine the disciples seeking Mary out for her advice when they were confounded or her encouragement when they were exhausted.
The re-birth of our Church today is taking place in a time of danger.
In this time of pandemic, we do not know what the immediate future will bring. We are discerning how to be faithful to our mission to preach the Good News and to keep God’s people safe.
And Mary is here! Mother of our Church. We can trust that she will guide us to be faithful disciples as she guided her son and the early Church.
–Christine Way Skinner is a Lay Pastoral Associate at St. John Chrysostom Parish in Newmarket, ON. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Theology degree from St. Francis Xavier University and a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. Christine is the author of the Catholic Kid’s Library Series, What Catholics Believe, There Must be a Pony in Here Somewhere, and the newly released, The Joy of Keeping the Faith.