I have a propensity for Swedish Rock Music. Most recently, Avacii has been making waves. In the 1990’s, Ace of Base was topping the charts. When I was a young child, back in 1988, the 80’s Swedish Rock Duo, Roxette, released their soon to be hit song “Listen To Your Heart”. I have always loved this song. Admittedly through the years I have taken it out of its original context and Christianized it. The main refrain lines of the song often strike me as words that the Blessed Virgin Mary would speak to us.
“Listen to your heart when he's calling for you
Listen to your heart there's nothing else you can do
I don't know where you're going and I don't know why
But listen to your heart before you tell him goodbye”
These particular lines of this song make me think of our prayer life when God calls to us. It gets stuck in my head.
Mary, so humble and so faithful ponders the Word of God constantly in her heart. Sinless virgin that she is, there is nothing else she would rather do other than obey the Will of God in her Life and listen as he speaks to her in her heart. But it is also as if she is telling us, as our mother, that, as we rebel, sin, and distance ourselves from God daily, she is unable to fathom why we would leave the path to God for an elsewhere that she cannot imagine. She knows that if we do not listen to God speak to us in our hearts, ultimately this will lead to us telling God “goodbye” definitively, and for all eternity.
But if Mary’s heart is so pure, so good, so inflamed with love, why does Jesus, in a few difficult passages of the New Testament, apparently appear to deny and disrespect her, his own mother? Upon deeper analysis we realize that nothing could be further from the truth than such a presumption. These are excellent passages to become familiar with since some people try to use them to convince Catholics that they honor Mary too much.
Besides the Wedding Feast at Cana, in which Jesus seems to chide Mary for asking of him the miracle of changing water into wine (not to mention the discovery of Jesus in the Temple in which some might mistake his 12-year-old tone as harsh towards his Mother and foster-Father), We also see Jesus, in Mark 3:35 swiftly replying to the notification that his mother and brethren (here meaning cousins) are outside waiting for him with these words, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
Let us step back for a moment. Who, if not the Virgin Mary, does the Will of God? Christ’s words are actually praising Mary. God let salvation rest on the yes or no response of this Jewish maiden whom the Angel Gabriel actually renamed “Full of Grace” in Luke 1:28. Mary humbly and joyfully does the Will of God more than any human person that ever was or ever will be after her. Thus, Elizabeth, her kinswoman calls her blessed among all women in Luke 1. In Luke 1:38, Mary’s own free acceptance of the Second Person of the Trinity becoming Man in her womb is succinctly stated as she proclaims “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” This phrase is at the heart of who she is. Such a response could belong only to the one who most authentically does the Will of God. Of all the plans of the Father, the saving Mission of the Redeemer stands at the Center. And right at the heart of the mystery of our redemption stands a woman always at the ready to do God’s Will. It is she, this little creature, who the Creator chose as his own mother.
But what about Luke 11:27-28, where a woman exclaims to our Lord that “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!”? Jesus here answers her “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Let me ask you this, who, if not Mary, hears the word of God and keeps it? Throughout the childhood of Jesus, Mary ponders the mysteries of Christ Jesus. After his birth, the shepherds come to give glory to the newborn Savior. We are told that “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” in Luke 2:19. Later in Luke 2 Mary and Joseph likewise marvel at the Holy Spirit inspired words of the Prophet Simeon as he speaks of the Christ Child. Simeon goes on to tell Mary “(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” in Luke 2:35, foretelling her own Immaculate, pierced heart’s future loving hold on our own hearts.
Years later, after the finding of the Boy Jesus in the Temple after three days of searching, in response to Jesus’ enigmatic words about how he must be in his Father’s house, Mary “kept all these things in heart” as recorded in Luke 2:51. Mary was blest to have born Jesus in her womb, but she is more blest in that she hears the Word of God and keeps it.
Jesus never disrespects his Mother. He, God himself, does not violate any of his commandments, including the 4th Commandment to honor Father and Mother. This was true when he was a child, 12 years of age. And it was still true when he was an adult, allowing his Mother to initiate his public ministry at the Wedding Feast of Cana, where his apparently stern words to her in John 2:4 “O Woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come”, seen in retrospect, are clearly a statement of great honor (calling Mary “woman” indicated, not disrespect, but rather, reverence).
Jesus emphasizes in the New Testament that henceforth spiritual bonds will be more important than biological bonds. Mary would agree. Mary’s great faith trumps the biological reality that she bore the Word Made Flesh. One famous quote, the author of whom I am unsure, tells us that “Mary conceived the Word of God in her heart before she conceived him in her womb.” How true.
Jesus never rejects his Mother. Mary knew that faith trumped biological ties, and so she understood what her Son was saying. Again, let us be clear about that. But he does prepare for her a maternal role bigger than biological motherhood in these challenging passages. Gradually, even from his childhood, Jesus readies his Mother to become spiritual mother to all of us. We are called to imitate Christ in all things, and as God, he is the only Son that ever chose his Mother beforehand. God entrusts himself to the Virgin Mother, and we are called to do likewise.
Mary was the first and best Christian whose enduring last words to us in the Scriptures are so poignantly found at the Wedding Feast of Cana Scene simply stating in John 2:5 “Do Whatever He Tells You.” Later on in that same Gospel, Jesus, on the Cross entrusts John and all beloved disciples ever after to the maternal care of she, the great noble woman who constantly will point us towards, and even carry us to her Son, Jesus. So marvelous is her God given reign over our hearts that in Revelation 12:1 we see her as the “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” who bears the Christ Child. She becomes the great queen mother. As Satan, the dragon, is cast down to the Earth, we are told that he, already angry at the woman (Mary), goes forth to battle against the rest of her offspring. Revelation 12:17 reveals to us that Mary’s offspring are “those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.” In summation, Satan goes forth to make war on the other children of Mary. That is, the devil attacks all Christians.
To such a great mother do we belong, who brings us to Jesus and fights the dragon with us, this lady who always does the Will of God, and who always keeps the Word of God in her heart.
In the novel Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, The Queen Of Hearts strikes us as a merciless, eccentric figure. While that particular Queen Of Hearts is a fictional character, thankfully, we can also be grateful that a merciful, humble Queen Of Hearts really does exist: The Blessed Virgin Mary, who ponders always the Word of God in heart, and beckons to us to do the same, bringing us to Jesus, “that the thoughts out of many hearts might be revealed”.
Remember always to “Listen to your heart when he’s calling for you.”