How is Mary the greatest role model for Christian mothers?
Mother’s Day has a deep spiritual dimension. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the greatest of all mothers. Motherhood has always been a sacred and noble vocation, but Mary raised it to even greater stature when she became the Mother of God. As the mother who is “blessed among women” (Lk 1:42), Mary gives us the clearest and most inspiring picture of what the ideal mother should look like, and every Christian mother would be wise to take her cues from the one who excelled at motherhood like none other.
Mary was “full of grace,” or put more simply, God lived within her. This came naturally because of her upbringing. St. Ann was Mary’s mother, and the elder Ann taught her young daughter to be loving and kind, attentive to God’s Word, and obedient to God’s will. With such a firm foundation, Mary was so favorably disposed to God that when the archangel Gabriel appeared to her and said, “You will bear a son,” with deep faith she trustingly replied, “Let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:31,38). Every Christian mother loves God with all her heart and responds favorably whenever God calls.
Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35); it was by the grace of God that she conceived. Every conception is a miracle, and every Christian mother knows that she is a partner with God in the ongoing work of creation, deeply aware that her child is a gift from God. As a result, when a Christian woman is blessed with a pregnancy, she rejoices in her child as Mary rejoiced in Jesus, she completes her pregnancy rather than end it in abortion, and cares for her unborn child with good nutrition, medical check ups, and the avoidance of smoking, alcohol, or any drugs that could have a harmful effect.
Once Mary became pregnant, she immediately went to visit Elizabeth, her relative, who also was pregnant (Lk 1:39-45). Christian mothers do not focus solely on themselves and their own families. Instead, they have the marvelous ability to assist relatives and friends who are in need.
Not long after Mary became pregnant, she offered a magnificent prayer to God, one of the most beautiful prayers in all of Scripture, the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55). Mothers who follow Mary’s example are deeply prayerful, and speak to God from their hearts day-by-day.
On the first Christmas Mary gave birth to her Son, and she immediately wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes (Lk 2:7), and thereby cared for his physical needs. Christian mothers care the for their children’s physical needs as they feed them, clothe them, change their diapers, rock them to sleep, take them to doctor’s appointments, and nurse them through illness.
Several weeks after Jesus was born, Mary, along with her husband Joseph, presented their newborn Son Jesus to the priest in the Temple (Lk 2:22-38). By doing this, Mary consecrated Jesus to God, she acknowledged that God had a plan for her Son and agreed to do everything in her power to cooperate with God’s intended purpose for him. Likewise, Christian mothers consecrate their children to God in the Sacrament of Baptism, and promise to do everything possible to help their children do what God wants in their lives.
Next, evil King Herod tried to kill Jesus, so Mary fled to Egypt to protect her son (Mt 2:13-15). Christian mothers keep their children away from evil forces that could harm them: violent or abusive adults, undisciplined playmates, and bad television programs, to name a few.
Mary and Joseph took their son Jesus to the synagogue in Nazareth each week in observance of the Sabbath (Lk 4:16), and they took him to the Temple in Jerusalem once a year for Passover (Lk 2:41). For Mary, regular church attendance was automatic. Mothers who follow Mary’s example go to Mass each week, and they take their children with them, because it is so important to pray with others and be connected to other faith-filled families.
The gospel says that Jesus was obedient to Mary (Lk 2:51), which implies that Mary was firm and demanding with her Son. Christian mothers do not let their children do whatever they want, but have high standards for Christian conduct, have a set of house rules, and insist upon them.
When Jesus was crucified, Mary stood at the foot of the Cross and suffered with him (Jn 19:25). She never abandoned her child, even during adulthood, particularly when things were at their worst. This sort of enduring love is exemplary for Christian mothers. Children get into trouble, sometimes for the right reasons, sometimes not, as children or as adults. Mothers like Mary stand with their children throughout life, especially when things go bad, even if they are unable to alter the course of tragic events, to offer love and support in whatever way they can.
About Father Michael Van Sloun
Father Michael Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Wayzata, Minn. As a former school principal, high school instructor and athletic coach, he has always been a teacher. He now teaches the faith as a homilist, Bible study leader, retreat director, pilgrimage guide and author of numerous articles.
© 2003, Rev. Michael A. Van Sloun
Used with permission.