Psalm 96:1-3, 7-10
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
“And the mother of Jesus was there.”
As I was praying with the Gospel for today, that passage stuck out to me. It seems to be a simple statement of Mary’s presence at the feast, so as to introduce her who will momentarily encourage the Lord Jesus to begin His earthly ministry. And yet at the same time, there is a certain richness in it – Mary was there. She was present with Christ, faithful and urging Him on the way to the fulfillment of the Father’s will. In the same way, she is always there for us too, her spiritual children. We might be totally unaware of it, but that does not change the fact that she is there.
Yesterday during our high school day retreat we were touring the church and looking at the symbolism of the altar, vessels, and various things in the church when a question was asked about the stained glass windows. Fr. Vincent answered the question and then pointed out the detail in the windows. On one side of the church all the way down there grape clusters in the design. On the other side of the church all the way down there are images of wheat in the design. Grapes and wheat, wine and bread. A beautiful symbol of the Eucharist and a reminder as they line the whole body of the Church that we are all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, called to be shared with the whole world. I had noticed the grapes, but never the wheat. I was feeling bad for having missed that when one of the parents said “I’ve been coming here for 40 years and never noticed that!” Suddenly, I didn’t feel so bad for having missed it only 6 months. But the point was that they had been there the whole time, the beautiful windows conveying a message to encourage us in our faith, even if we are unaware of that message. And the same is true of Our Lady.
For years I didn’t know Mary as a spiritual mother. I honored her as I knew that I should. I prayed the rosary from time to time and certainly knew that she held a very special place in the story of our faith. But I didn’t know her as a mother. It was actually in my first year in seminary that I really began to understand this reality of Mary’s spiritual maternity. A friend of mine asked me to join in praying a consecration to Jesus through Mary according to the method of St. Louis de Montfort. I agreed and started the preparation for the consecration, a 33-day process. As I read the readings and reflections I began to understand the role that Mary had played in my life until then and continuing ever since and rejoiced that I had someone in heaven who was constantly praying for me and being mindful of me, as a mother never forgets her children.
This spiritual maternity is actually something we see in the gospel for today, which can seem a bit rough if we don’t understand it properly. To say ‘woman’ is not a exactly a term of endearment. In fact, I’m quite sure if I ever addressed my mom as ‘woman’ I wouldn’t be able to stand up for a good while. But for the Lord to say this to His mother at the wedding feast is quite different. The only other time He addressed Our Lady as ‘woman’ was at the Crucifixion, when he said ‘Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.’ Those two moments, the beginning and end of His earthly ministry, point us to that first person who was called ‘woman’ – Eve, the mother of all the living. By calling Mary ‘woman’ He is connecting her with Eve and showing us that she is our new mother and indeed the mother of all the living – but not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. She is our spiritual mother and as such she is seeking to bring us spiritual life by guiding us in the path to glory while we journey on Earth – whether we are aware or unaware.
My consecration to Mary was a significant point in deepening my relationship with Mary as my mother. But I also have to admit that I sometimes stray in that relationship. It is for a good reason that I somewhat jokingly call myself a ‘wayward son of Mary’ but the beautiful thing is that she is faithful and always brings me back to Christ. What a blessing to have such a mother! Always faithful, always there.