I may not come across as a “Where’s that in the Bible” kind of Christian, but, regarding our foundational beliefs, I am. This includes the way that the Church views Jesus’s mother, Mary.
So… Why do Catholics pray to Mary so often that some people mistakenly think that we worship her? The wedding feast at Cana is the usual source for an answer, as she intercedes with Jesus on behalf of the wedding host, giving the nudge for His first public miracle. She, being His mother, certainly held some sway with Him there, and we can certainly see the power of her intercession. Many more miracles are recorded in the Bible, however, when people simply ask Jesus directly for them. Jesus Himself tells us to pray to Our Father in Heaven — not to ask His mother.
We can also look to the Créche and the Cross for deeper understanding.
Jesus, on His deathbed, tells His own mother to look upon the young man at her side as her son. This person is Jesus’s friend, known as His beloved disciple. Jesus then tells this disciple to look upon Mary as his mother. The gospel of John goes on to tell us that the beloved disciple did indeed take Mary as his own mother, taking her into his very home.
I think it’s safe to say that every true follower of Jesus wants to be His beloved disciple — not because we want to sit at His right hand, but because we want to be particularly loved by Him. Let it not just be the love of Heaven and the fear of Hell that inspires us to believe in Jesus. That innate and infinite longing to love and be loved calls us into a true relationship with Love Himself, with God, who loves us enough to become one of us, taking on to Himself all of our miseries and pain.
So we take Jesus’s words seriously and, wanting to be good disciples, look upon His mother as our mother too. This act can be merely theological, intellectual — as in we are all brothers and sisters in Christ — or it can be intimately personal.
Let’s begin with the theological. (Don’t be scared.)
In order for God to become one of us, He had to be born one of us — God needed a mother. Every time the Church meditates upon Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and unfolds dogma about Mary, it is to deepen our understanding of the Incarnation, of Christ’s humanity, of God’s loving humility, and to help us to realize in our own lives the truth of God’s personal and intimate compassion for each and every one of us. The Word was made flesh (by the power of God through the “yes” of Mary) for you.
I don’t think that any of us can truly comprehend and appreciate the motherhood of Mary. Yes, she is the Virgin Mother, which is certainly miraculous enough. But she’s also the Mother of God — the person who is Jesus, the Second Divine Person of the Holy Trinity, has a real, blood and guts mother, in whose womb He took on flesh. Can you fathom it?
Can you incorporate this reality of Jesus into your everyday life?
That brings us on to the personal…
Perspective from a Television Show
There is certainly not much good on television, but the streaming television series called The Chosen, produced by Angel Studios, has been an exception. Certainly not 100% accurate (it’s not really meant to be — how could it be, anyway) and sometimes mediocre, it can nonetheless offer some truly delicious tidbits in the feast of our faith, some really good food for thought.
Like giving me a new perspective on why Jesus’s mother intercedes effectively for us.
This particular moment came in the second season, in an episode entitled “Matthew 4:24.” Almost the entirety of the episode (like the series) focuses on the apostles. We watch their interactions and hang around with them while Jesus is somewhere unseen, physically ministering to the people throughout the area, for “they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics, and he cured them.” He is at it all day.
Just before it gets dark, Jesus’s mother, Mary, comes to the camp of the apostles. She’s greatly respected, older than they are, but is also seen as one of them in this episode. Mary and the disciples sit around the fire, talking about their relationships with Jesus, as well as their feelings of inadequacy. Mary is asked to tell of how she felt when Jesus was born and when it was that she knew who He is. She demures, but they insist on wanting to know her story. She says that nothing about the birth was easy — far from home, her mother not there. When Joseph handed her Jesus, she said that she thought this birth would be different than what she had heard about having a baby. But it wasn’t. She then tries to explain:
“I had to clean Him off. He was covered in… I will be polite.” She laughs a little. “He needed to be cleaned. And He was cold. And He was crying. And… He needed my help. My help. A teenager from Nazareth. It actually made me think for just one moment, Is this really the Son of God? And Joseph later told me that he briefly thought the same thing. But we knew He was. I don’t know what I expected. But He was crying and He needed me. And I wondered how long that would last.”
With this last sentence, I had a little pause moment in my head. You know, when you hear or see something that you know is important, that you know is starting to make you think about something differently? As the rest of the TV Mary’s dialogue continued, what had begun continued in a wordless understanding that washed over me, so much so that I smiled.
“He doesn’t need me anymore, not since we taught Him how to walk and eat,” TV Mary says. “He hasn’t needed me for a long time, I suppose. And after Joseph passed, may he rest in peace, He grew up even quicker. And I wish I could say that made me happy. Of course, as a Jew, I’m excited to see everything that He does for our people and I’m proud of Him. But… as a mom… it makes me a little sad sometimes.… So it’s good to be with all of you for a bit.” She smiles. “I can find ways to help.”
Finding ways to help makes Jesus’s mother very happy.
With six minutes remaining in the episode, Jesus enters the camp, returning from a very, very long day. As He walks straight toward His tent in the night, it is obvious that He is physically exhausted, perhaps mentally exhausted as well. He is walking with some pain, He has scratches and blood on Him, His clothes are dirty, He has been sweating quite a bit, exerting Himself. All of the disciples stand up and just look at Him, somewhat alarmed but mostly dumbstruck as He walks past them. It is Mary, His mother, who is moved with deep, maternal love and compassion, immediately going to Him at the entrance of His tent. She helps Him off with His cloak, removes His shoes, bathes His feet, and wipes the blood from His hands and His face. (Much as she did when He was a newborn baby. Much as she will when He is taken down from the cross.)
As Mother Mary wipes, Jesus says with a tired smile, “I’m a mess.” Then the Savior of the World kisses His mother and hugs her tenderly, saying, “What would I do without you, Immah?”
The scene ends with the disciples sitting quietly, somewhat in awe, deep in thought around the fire, and the Mother of God cleaning up for Jesus in the background.
Are you getting it, too?
Pray for Us Sinners Now and at the Hour of Death
God Incarnate was glad, relieved, and grateful to have His mother lovingly wash Him up and take care of Him. There is deep and beautiful human love in this, human love at its purest apex, in its sweetest and most divine form. God in the flesh needed His mother Mary in the fullness of His humanity, but also tenderly and lovingly let her take care of Him in the fullness of His divinity.
Being of help makes Mary happy. God knows.
The Word of God needed Mary in order to take on flesh. What would He do without her? Jesus, in His great love, allows Mary to always be of help to Him, by uniting her to Him eternally so that she may be of help to us, His beloved disciples, His brothers and sisters.
And that is the intercession of The Blessed Mother.
That is the treasury of grace that Catholics talk about, the graces and privileges that God heaps upon The Virgin Mary, upon His beloved mother, so that she may pour them out upon us — us, little Christs — when we are suffering, when we are exhausted, when we are in need. Just as she comforted and cared for Jesus.
“Behold your son… Behold your mother.”
So that’s my new thought to ponder.
There will be another one next week…
© 2022 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.