The Role of Mary
The month of May honors Mary and when I think of Mary I am compelled to recite the rosary. Father Padre Pio once said that “ "Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother. Love the Madonna and pray the Rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother." My favorite mysteries of the rosary are the sorrowful mysteries. As I began to recite the rosary, I am compelled to reflect on Mary's role in the Crucifixion of her Son. Among the four Evangelists only St. John records the fact that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, stood under the Cross near her Son. Christ had just been crucified, it took three hours for Him to expire; but He was still remarkably alive. The soldiers were preoccupied with who would get His garments. They looked at His cloak and found that it was seamless, so they threw dice to see who would get it. Meanwhile St. John, the Apostle stands beside Christ’s Mother and His Mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene Each had taken their stand beside the Cross. It amazed me to know that there were three Mary’s present at Calvary.
It is significant that only John records that the Mother of Jesus was under the Cross or that Jesus spoke first spoke to Mary, “Woman” He said, “This is your Son” (Jn 19:26) Then to John He said, “ This is your Mother” and from that hour His disciple took her into his own keeping. (Jn 19:27-28) There were also two more words (this is Jesus on the Cross) to pronounce. It is well to know in what context Christ's speaking to Mary occurred. Immediately after speaking to Mary and John, Jesus cried out, "I thirst." And in His last Word, it is achieved, "It is finished." And then He died. The uniqueness of John alone recording what transpired between Jesus and Mary on the Cross. This becomes less remarkable once we realize that John was the only Apostle on Calvary. The others had fled.
Jesus was performing the most significant act in human history. Yet, suddenly He stopped to make sure a desperate widow had somebody to take care of her. Jesus was always doing stuff like this, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, caring and loving for the people. What He did wasn’t necessarily significant. But when He chose to do it was. Jesus could have done this the night before while in the Upper Room. He could have leaned over to John and asked him to take of His mother right there. He could have done if after He had died and risen from the grave. He spent a lot of time with both Mary and the disciples before He ascended to heaven. But He didn’t at those moments. He chose the moment when He was hanging on the cross, paying for the sins of the world, to stop and take care of Mary’s future.
However, Jesus knew the cross was coming. He could have taken care of Mary’s need at any other point of His journey. So why did He choose to do it while on the cross? Jesus was revealing something to us. He was letting us see a view of God’s heart most of us would have missed otherwise. It’s a beautiful picture of how God loves us. God doesn’t just care for and love you by offering you salvation. He wants to love you and care for you even in the smallest details of your life.
A lot of us need to see this and understand the depth of God’s love for us. As He’s shedding His blood for the sins of the world, showing us, He can meet the most significant need in the universe, our sin, He’s also showing us He’s not too busy, too tired or too distracted to care for one desperate widow who needs a place to sleep. Jesus intentionally chose this moment to demonstrate the span of care for our lives.
John Took Care of Mary on Earth.
From then on, we are told by Church tradition that John took care of Mary – he outlived her here on earth. The customary length of time from Christ's Ascension to Mary's Assumption is fifteen years. The approximate date of John's Gospel the Holy Spirit wanted to make sure that when John wrote his Gospel he did not, unnecessarily repeat what the others had already said. He said things that the other Evangelists did not record for he was the only one present. So, John was inspired by the Holy Spirit to tell us.
Four Forms of Motherhood
We should not be surprised that Christ addressed his Mother as "Woman." It was just for the record a standard title of respect among Jews. Indeed, it's the same John that records another conversation between Jesus and Mary, remember, at Cana in Galilee? Only John recalls the experience and only John recalls that on that occasion too, Jesus speaking to His Mother addressed her as "Woman." The Church explains Christ's action on the Cross by saying that John at Calvary represented every one of us. Christ first entrusted us to Mary; get it? His first responsibility He placed on His Mother.
There are four forms of Motherhood that, by now twenty centuries of the Church's wisdom, has attributed to Mary as having been conferred on her on Calvary. She became, in the fullest sense of the word, the Mother of Christ. Secondly, she became the Mother of the Redeemer. Thirdly, she became the Mother of the Church. And finally, she became the Mother of Divine Grace.
Mother of Christ
So, we ask ourselves by what title is Mary the Mother of Christ? Mary already became the Mother of Christ when she conceived and gave Him birth, His role as Messiah was not accomplished until Jesus was dying on the Cross. It began in Mary's womb and ended with Mary there on Calvary.
Mother of the Redeemer
Mary became the Mother of the Redeemer by giving Him the human flesh and blood which, then, gave Him His human nature. But why? Why did God need a human mother? You say to obtain a human body, human blood. But what for? So that He might be able to offer up that Body and Blood that Jesus offered on the Cross on Calvary to redeem a sinful human race was the body and blood that Jesus had received from His Mother. As she stood under the Cross she saw the purpose of her Motherhood fulfilled.
Mother of the Church
We ask by what title is Mary Mother of the Church? Mary had been considered Mater Ecclesiae, Mother of the Church. The Second Vatican Council provided the doctrinal foundation for the title. We believe on Faith that the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, came into existence on Calvary. Everything from the moment of Christ's conception in Mary's womb up to the point when He expired, all of that was the Church in her being formed. The birth of the Church, the Church's nativity, the Calvary to redeem a sinful human race was the body and blood that Jesus had received from His Mother. As she stood under the Cross she saw the purpose of her Motherhood fulfilled.
How is Mary the Mother of the Church?
She's Mother of the Church because she united herself with Jesus as He offered Himself on the Cross to the heavenly Father. The Church came into existence on Calvary on Good Friday. The Church was born on the Cross. The Church's birth was painful. If there is one place that the pangs of childbirth can be applied literally, it was to Christ's agonizing death on the Cross, but these pains gave birth to the Church on Calvary were indeed mainly and fundamentally those of Jesus Christ; but Mary was there so she might be able to suffer with Him; and like Him in Body and Spirit, she, in spirit. She suffered too, to co-operate with her Son in giving birth to Christ's Mystical Body which is the Church.
Mother of Divine Grace
By what title Mary the Mother of Divine Grace? The answer is first, by conceiving and giving birth to Christ with the Author of divine grace. Secondly, by cooperating with Jesus on the Cross and in giving birth to that Church, which is the universal sacrament of divine grace. Christ's death on the Cross merited the grace to redeem mankind but having died; His death was also a birth. Christ died in His Physical Person, Christ was born in His Mystical Person the moment He expired. And all the grace and the word are – all – all the grace the world will receive until the end of time, all of it; comes indeed from Christ: but it comes through the Church Of which we've already said Mary is the Church's Mother. Moreover, when Christ told her, "This is your son," referring to all of us; and in John for all of us, "This is your Mother." The Infallible Church tells us Christ thereby designated Our Lady as the Mediatrix of the graces that He, her Son, had merited by His death on Calvary. We know that during her life on earth, she mediated grace to the infant Church and even before the Church's birth; (remember at the Visitation, Mary's voice), Elizabeth was inspired, and John was sanctified.
Mary Became Our Supernatural Mother
On the Cross Christ told us in the person of John to recognize Mary as our mother. She is our Mother but what a difference between a person being someone, and someone else realizing and acting on the realization. In other words, we have a grave responsibility to examine our consciences and ask ourselves daily – How often do I reflect on and act on the fact that I know Mary is my mother? Mary became our supernatural Mother by uniting herself with her Son in the Birth of the Church on Calvary. So, the Church is in existence declares that Mary is our Mother exercising all the prerogatives of a mother, having all the rights of a mother. And this relationship; filiation on our side, Motherhood on Mary's side: We need her, constantly. I recommend that we daily examine our consciences on what I call the Marian dimension of our lives. How often is Mary on our minds? How much is Mary in our hearts?
As you know is one thing say to recite the Hail Mary or to say the Rosary or to pronounce the word "Mary" – what a difference! And to do so consciously and I would add, wholeheartedly with all the awareness of our Faith that we do have a God in Heaven. He is Our Father, but we also have Mary, our Mother.
Imitate Our Lady's Compassion
What is the basic lesson for all of us? On Calvary, Mary gave us the example of what it means to co-operate with Jesus to the end, notice from beginning to end. She just had to be on Calvary. She had to be there! And indeed except for her, her Son would not have been there. Following Mary's example in co-operating with Christ, means many things. But it's not for nothing that the five decades of the Rosary called the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary is so important. Imitating Our Lady in her union with her Divine Son, it means all to unite our sufferings with His. Today, the Mystical Body of Christ which is the Church; which is Christ the Head and we the members, are undergoing widespread opposition and persecution.
Studying and reflecting on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary has made me more conscious, sensitive and aware on the depth of agony to which the Mystical Body of Christ is exposed in the modern world. Mary united herself with the dying, physical Jesus Christ. If we are to imitate Our Lady, let's make sure we acquire something of her Compassion for the sufferings of Christ today in a world that hates Him no less, if anything more, than it ever did when it nailed Him to the Cross. The importance of Mary in her role in the Passion of Christ is immense. As we pray the different mysteries of the rosary we relive the birth, death and resurrection of Christ and we unite with His Holy Mother in profound prayers of love, agony and mercy.
St. Alphonsus of Liguori beautifully describes this in his prayer to her,
”O most Sorrowful of all mothers, your Son is now dead. That Son so loving who loved you so much. Weep, for you have reason to weep. Who can ever bring you any consolation? Only this thought can console you: that by His death Jesus conquered Hell, opened Heaven and gained so many souls. From the Throne of the Cross, He will reign in millions of hearts. Conquered by His Love, they will serve Him with love. Do not hesitate in the meantime, O my Mother to keep me near you so that I may weep with you. I have good reason to shed bitter tears for the many crimes I have committed against my Savior. O Mother of Mercy I hope first, through the death of my Redeemer and, then, through your Sorrows to obtain forgiveness and eternal salvation. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen”