She Is Our Mother
In celebration of Mother's Day on May 10, we share the following excerpt from the Marian Press title Meet Your Mother: A Brief Introduction to Mary, by Dr. Mark Miravalle.
Our Spiritual Mother
When I was a child (centuries ago), one of my favorite books was called Are You My Mother? It is a sweet little book about a baby bird who had hatched while his mother was away. He began walking around and asking anything and everything he encountered, from construction cranes to other animals, "Are you my mother?" The story ends happily when he finally finds his true mother and is overwhelmed with joy by her loving presence.
Now, even though our quest here is not a fictional child's book but a serious adult search for the truth about Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and whether she is, in a spiritual but real sense, our true mother, there are certain parallels. To be open to the possibility of finding a true mother, we have to have not a childish but a child-like openness.
We are beings that are not our own creators. We are beings that have God as our Father, and perhaps this Heavenly Father wanted us to experience a type of spiritual mother as well. This, my friends, appears to be the case, if we offer an open heart to the words of the Heavenly Father's first Child: Jesus, his divine Son and our divine Brother.
Now, I'm going to refer to the New Testament here as a source of revealed truth from God without making the overall case for the truth of Christianity itself. While I'd love to make that case, I would want to do it thoroughly and reasonably, and here is just not the appropriate place to do it. (That's a book unto itself.)
The same must be said to Christians reading this concise work who are not Catholic. Although the interpretation of the words of Jesus that I will give here is the interpretation shared by the early Christian commentators (those great Church Fathers again) as well as the Popes of Christian history, I will not give a detailed "apologetic" explanation and defense of this passage as I have done in other books.26 Instead, I am just going to invite you to have an open mind and heart to these words of Jesus, and see if, deep down in that wonderful soul God gave you, you feel a sense of peace with what Jesus says about his mother and about you.
When Jesus was dying on Calvary to offer his life as a ransom, a payment, for our sins to the Heavenly Father, right before the greatest single act of sacrificial love in all of human history was about to be accomplished, Jesus gave us one last gift. How important is this gift? It is so important that he gives it to us right at the very end.
Looking down from the Cross, Jesus sees his mother, who has not left his side during this historic sacrifice, and his "beloved disciple" John, the youngest apostle and the only one who has shown his loyalty by staying with Jesus during his crucifixion. Then, right before he declares, "It is finished," Jesus gives each of us and all of us the greatest gift, after our salvation, that he could give: He gives us his own mother to be our spiritual mother.
"Woman, behold, your son," Jesus says to Mary (Jn 19:26). That Jesus refers to his own mother as "Woman" tells us that she holds a type of office that goes beyond just their own personal mother-son relationship. She, Mary, is the "Woman" of Genesis (3:15), the "Woman" of Cana (Jn 2:4), the "Woman" of Revelation (12:1) — the "Woman" of the Bible. And now, her motherly role with Jesus in the work of salvation is expanded — to us.
But how do we know that these words from Jesus to Mary don't simply refer to John as an individual? Because everything Jesus does from the Cross has a universal impact! Jesus didn't just die for John, but for you and me and for every single human being who has ever walked the face of the earth or will in the future. No, Jesus' universal act of Redemption on Calvary affects every human being — and so does his gift of Mary's spiritual motherhood.
Jesus then turned to the young John and said, "Behold, your mother" (Jn 19:27). Yes, Mary becomes the beloved disciple's spiritual mother and the spiritual mother of all who seek to be "beloved disciples" of Jesus. Jesus dies for all humanity at this historical moment, and he offers humanity the two great fruits of redemptive suffering (from his "Passion") before he dies: Jesus offers us the gift of eternal life through faith in him, and he gives Mary to each of us as a personal gift — whether or not we choose to accept these gifts is up to us.
These two gifts of divine love, so beautifully intermingled at Calvary, should be received by all, especially when they come from Jesus and at such a great price.
Let's look at the beloved disciple's response to this extraordinary gift from the dying Jesus. The Bible tells us that John took Mary "into his own home" (Jn 19:27).
Maybe that's what we need to do — take Mary into our homes, into our hearts, into our spiritual and interior lives, into our families, into our present world situation.
But how specifically is the Mother of Jesus a "spiritual mother" to each of us personally? Well, as we'll see, in the same ways that a good mother is specifically a mother to us in the natural order of things, so, too, is Mary a mother to us in the spiritual order of things. Mary is, as the Second Vatican Council put it, "a mother to us in the order of grace."
"Mary, are you my mother?" Let's continue the search and see.
Dr. Mark Miravalle is a professor of theology and mariology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also the author of Meet Your Spiritual Father.