Some people accuse Catholics of worshiping Mary. Considering the language that some Catholics use regarding the mother of Jesus, I, as a Roman Catholic myself, can’t blame the accusers for this false notion of Catholicism. To be clear: Mary is never to be worshiped. Any Catholic, or any other Christian, would be committing a terrible blasphemy, sacrilege, and sin if they did so. Only God is to be worshiped – and, for Christians, our understanding of the one true, living God is in Triune Majesty: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Mary, whom Catholics and Eastern Orthodox call Mother of God, is NOT God. She is absolutely not divine. Mary is merely human.
And that’s the great thing about her.
On Our Mary Way
Anyone who believes in the Bible as the word of God – and even anyone who regards the Bible as simply an ancient book of spiritual wisdom – should not disregard Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a minor figure. Regarding all human relationships with God, she is a beautiful leader by example. She is open to the ways of the Spirit, humble in her acknowledgment of God’s infinite greatness compared to her lowliness, unafraid to seek honest understanding, and completely willing to serve God as best as she can, marrying her will with Divine Will, no matter what the cost to her personal life. Mary knows exactly why she has life, her reason for being: to know, to love, and to serve God. Mary knows exactly who she is: the servant of the Lord – and she rejoices in this. We should all try to be more like Mary.
In the Bible, Mary is clearly honored by God – in a unique way. Proclaiming God’s gratuitousness, Mary, in humble wonder and awe, says, “For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:48-49, RSV.) How many Bible believing Christians call Mary blessed? Just moments before, Elizabeth, her kinswoman, had called her “Blessed among women”. More blessed than Eve, who came fresh and pure from the Creator’s hands, is Mary – for Mary chose to believe in God and to keep faith with God’s Will. Thus is she known from the dawn of Christianity as “The New Eve.” “Blessed is she,” Elizabeth says further, “who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Jesus says something similar, later, when someone in the crowd around him declares, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!” Jesus responds, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Mary herself is Blessed – not merely her human body as a vessel through which the Incarnation came about, but she herself, because, through her act of will, she chose to believe in God’s word and to follow through with God’s Will. How grateful all Christians should be to her for saying yes!
This is what has been called the most important piece of advice concerning Jesus Christ ever given: “Do whatever he tells you to.” These are Mary’s last words recorded in the Bible. And they prove that we have much to learn from Mary – from her deeds, her words, her ways… from the gifts that God gave her so that God could use her to be the mother, the willing, real, cooperating, fully loving mother, of the one who is both fully human and fully divine. Mary is called the Mother of God, not because of divine preeminence, for she has none, but, rather, because the Word of God, Who is God, became flesh through her, through her mind, body, heart and soul participation in the Divine Mystery. And she is our mother, too. As Eve was mother of all the living, Mary is Mother of All the Living in Christ, for, in Christ, we are a new creation. From the divine throne of the Cross, Jesus, caring for the well-being of Mary and honoring his mother with his last earthly breaths, tells his beloved disciple to take her as his own. How many people who want to be beloved disciples of Christ take his mother as their own?
It’s easy to read the Bible as words on a page – which is actually so dry that it makes reading the Bible difficult. I want to bring Mary more fully alive to my understanding. There are several people I know who are Consecrated to Mary and revere her very highly. Very, very highly. I, myself, am not devoted to Mary – but I love her as Jesus’s mother and as his first disciple, and I am learning to embrace her as my mother in Christ. It was through the prayers of the Holy Rosary, contemplating the mystery of Christ’s life through Mary’s eyes, that I learned to be a Christian. So, I will be writing a “Mary Series” through the month of May. Using my flawed intellect and imagination, I hope to weave threads of Sacred Scripture with spiritual and poetic (license) threads to have a real encounter with the Blessed Mother of Jesus, Mother of God. In reflecting upon the word of God, may I think about the wondrous things that God has done and be like Mary – for “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”