I once heard a story about a Protestant minister who was attending a conference in Germany. On the way he gave a coin to a young boy to shine his shoes. The boy was enthusiastic in his work, buffing and snapping his towel. As he did so the minister saw a silver medal bouncing around his neck. “Son, what is that medal you wear?” he asked, and the boy told him it was a medal of the Virgin Mary. “Why do you carry her medal,” he asked. “She is not any different from your own Mother”. The young boy didn’t miss a beat. “Perhaps that is so,” he said, “but her son is not like any other son.”
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Mary has many titles by which we know her – The new Eve, or Queen of Heaven, or the Immaculate Conception for instance. But the title of Mother of God is the most intimate of all, speaking of her very flesh.
Mary is Mother of God in at least two senses. She is Mother of Christ in the physical sense that she carried Jesus in her womb and gave birth to him. This is an unrepeatable event and an honor that no other human being could share with her. Mary not only carried Jesus in her womb but also supplied all the genetic matter for his human body, since it was through her – not Joseph – that Jesus “was descended from David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3). This human connection to her Son is one reason why from the establishment of our Church, the very first Christians called Mary the “Mother of God” without hesitation.
Mary is also Mother of God the Son in a spiritual sense. Jesus himself said “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:46-50). Today’s liturgy presents Mary as the first to accept Christ through listening attentively to His words. The Church has chosen for this feast the Gospel passage where it is written that “Mary, for her part, treasured all these words, reflecting on them in her heart”.
Can you, today, here and now, become Mother of God? Not only is this possible, but without this imitation, Mary’s title is useless to us.
St. Francis of Assisi taught that “We are Mothers of God when we carry Him in our heart and body through love and a pure and sincere conscience; and give Him birth through a holy activity, which must shine before others by example.”
We are all meant to be Mothers of God. What does it matter if Christ was once born to Mary in Bethlehem but is not born by faith in your soul? And, what good is it if Mary is full of grace if you if you are not also full of grace?
“We are Mothers of God when we carry Him in our heart and body through love”. Love cannot be content with just nice feelings; it must find its way into our conversations and, above all, into our deeds. The Virgin did not merely pronounce her fiat and move on… no, in every moment she fulfilled that firm and irrevocable decision. So should we. Like Mary, we commit ourselves to be faithful, loyal – and then live our lives to make them real.
Mary is the spiritual Mother of all who are disciples of her Son. She was the first disciple, and in some sense, the first martyr. Mary is the Mother and model of the Church, who receives the divine Word in faith and offers herself to God. Like Mary, the Church is the mediator of God’s blessing for the world: she receives it in receiving Jesus and she transmits it in bearing Jesus. This spiritual connection to the Church and her motherhood of disciples is another part of what we mean when we call Mary “Mother of God”.
To imitate Mary as disciple is to acknowledge that the way of discipleship is not easy. Humility is required of the disciple, to follow, to learn, to obey, to be conformed to the will of the Master, to imitate the Master. But to be a disciple is the prerequisite of living a life that glorifies God. To imitate Mary, enter the school of Mary to listen to her and learn from her. Only then will our own lives reflect hers in glorifying God.
To become more like Mary, we must begin by being very human, accepting from God our condition as ordinary humans and sanctifying our apparent weakness. Thus did Mary live. When we lose sight of Mary’s humanity, we lose sight of her humility. Mary sees herself as a humble creature. That is why she can acknowledge, with full humility, that “he who is mighty has done great things” in her.
We, too, are ordinary humans, and if we strive to imitate Mary’s humility, God will surely do great things in us. Our sense of our own weakness is no obstacle because God chooses what is of little value so that the power of his love be more manifest. Thus did Mary live. She who is full of grace, the object of God’s pleasure, exalted above all the angels and the saints, lived an ordinary life.
Mary’s son is indeed not like any other son, and his Mother is not like any. Mother Mary is a model of correspondence to her son’s grace. If we contemplate her life, our Lord will give us the grace we need to make holy our everyday existence.
We, all of us – men, women, and children – can and should become Mothers of Christ. No one is excluded from this call. Carry Him in your heart and body through love, and give Him birth through a holy life.