Mary, Mother of God

Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J

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At the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple Simeon took Jesus in his arms and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted, and you yourself a sword will pierce.” Here at the foot of the cross that prophecy reaches its climax, “Standing at the foot of the cross of Jesus was Mary his mother.”

At the end of his public ministry Mary is with Jesus just as she was with him in the beginning at the Wedding Feast at Cana. How foolish it is to think as that Mary is in competition with Jesus. It is not Jesus or Mary but Jesus and Mary, the Madonna and the Pieta. If you know Jesus you know that he wants us to honor his mother. If you know Mary you know that she wants to bring you to Jesus.

Mary stands at the foot of the cross. There is no fainting, no theatrical sobs, Jesus must not see her suffering. She suffers willingly. This is part of her oneness with him. Her body quivers with the mockery and jeering. “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.” (Mark 15:29) If only she could do something to relieve his pain. But she who did everything for him as an infant is not even permitted to touch him now. For three hours the agony continues. The intensity of the pain of compassion is measured by two things: the intensity of the pain suffered by the one we are suffering with and the intensity of our love for that person. Both of these norms are present at their maximum in the heart of Mary standing here at the foot of the cross.

Jesus sees Mary standing at the foot of the cross. Here is the greatest and last possession he has. During his life he could say, “The foxes have their holes and the birds their nests but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” Now he is stripped of the little he had. The soldiers have cast dice for his seamless robe and the very tomb where he will be buried belongs to someone else. Before he dies he will give away his last and most precious possession, his mother.

The effort to speak at all must have been very great so he will use as few words as possible. Next to his mother stood his beloved disciple, John. Tradition has always held that John represents all of us. Looking at Mary he said, “Woman, behold your son.” Mary’s response was always, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord let it be done to me according to your will.” At the Annunciation Mary was completely open to the intrusion of God into her life and this will be no exception. We can be sure that Mary has taken each one of us as her own.

Then turning to John he said, “Son, behold your mother.” Jesus is concerned about taking care of his mother. Joseph is noticeably absent which indicates that he is already dead. The fact that he chose the apostle John is proof that he didn’t have any brothers and sisters. “And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” Jesus wants each one of us to take Mary as our mother, to take her into our home, into our heart, into the depth of our faith, hope and love.

Mary was very special to Jesus and Jesus wants Mary to be special to us also. And she has been. No other woman has been honored as much as Mary has in literature, art, music and drama. Every nation has its own special shrine and devotion to Mary. Devotion to Mary is a unique phenomenon throughout history and is surely evident today. The cover story of a recent edition of Time Magazine featured Mary with the statement: “Catholics have long revered her, but now Protestants are finding their own reasons to celebrate the mother of Jesus.” As Mary prophesized at the Visitation, “Behold from now on all ages will call me blessed.” (Luke 1: 48)


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