Mother of God
Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J
Table of Contents
The Holy Family has come up from Nazareth to Jerusalem to go to the Temple for the Presentation of the Lord. (Luke 2: 22-38) According to the Law, “Every first born male shall be consecrated to the Lord.” The Temple symbolizes the continuity between Judaism and Christianity. Jesus came not to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them. Jesus is the Messiah of the Judaeo-Christian religion. There are five references to the observance of the law showing that Mary and Joseph were faithful Jews.
In the Temple was Simeon, a just and pious man, who was waiting for the promised Messiah. It has been revealed to him that he would not experience death until he had seen the Messiah. He took the child Jesus into his arms, blessed Mary and Joseph and said to Mary, “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 shall pierce.” Mary entered the Temple the mother of joy and would leave the mother of sorrows.
It wasn’t long before this prophecy of Simeon would begin to be fulfilled. Hardly had Mary begun to experience the joy of motherhood when she had to hasten into exile to save Jesus from Herod who sought to kill him; away from home and friends and relatives, away from the Temple and God’s chosen people, away from Israel to Egypt, to the people who despised her nation and blasphemed her God.
Later on, when Jesus was twelve, Mary would lose him and have to seek him sorrowing for three days. This would only be the foreshadowing of the greater loss when Jesus would have to leave home to begin his public life. See Mary saying good-bye to Jesus as he leaves home on that day. She follows him with her eyes down the path to the gate, then down the road until he disappears around the distant curve. She remains motionless, staring at the spot from which he disappeared. Slowly she turns to reenter her home. Home, can this be home without his presence, without his love, without his laughter?
Three years later Mary is waiting on the road to Calvary. She has heard that Jesus must pass there on his way up the hill. Soon a strange sound is heard in the distance, a sound as if the furious sea were hurling itself against the rocks. Louder and louder it grows, nearer and nearer the crowd comes; first a few stragglers then the whole multitude, thundering blasphemies and curses against God. And in the midst of this storm of passion, her son. Is this her son, is this her Jesus? Yes, through the blood and spittle she recognizes every line and feature. She feels his pain, his humiliation, his shame.
The martyrdom foretold by Simeon finally reaches its climax on Calvary. A climax told in the simple words of the Gospel, “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, Mary his mother.” She stands there while he is nailed to the cross. She sees the blood spurt, the nails sink into her heart. Her body quivers with the mockery and jeering. 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. Mary stands at 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.
If we had been present when Gabriel announced to Mary that she was to be the mother of Jesus, if we had seen the perfect simplicity, the exquisite beauty and peerless innocence of this young girl what kind of life would we have predicted for her? Shall not her loving Son use the fullness of his power to bless her life with cloudless peace and endless happiness? These are the idle thoughts of humans. Do you think that Jesus didn’t mean it when he said, “If anyone will come after me let him take up his cross and follow me?”
Here at the foot of the cross Mary is teaching us a lesson that is very much needed today. The lesson is simply this: it costs to be a lover; the language of love is sacrifice. Mary was full of grace, the very mother of God but she is also the mother of sorrows. This lesson is set in stone for all time in Michelangelo’s magnificent Pieta.
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