Reflection 8/23: Mary, Mary
Dear Beloved Community of St. John’s,
As surely as we know that Jesus of Nazareth existed, we know too that so did his mother Mary. The reality of her motherhood and her presence is clear throughout the four gospels—at Jesus’ birth, his life, ministry, death, resurrection, and the dawning of the Holy Spirit after the ascension. Mary provided inspiration and patronage to the apostles of the new church gathered in her son Christ’s name. Tradition says that she died peacefully among those who loved her. While homelessness, danger, anger, and violence were aspects of her life, she seemed to have her own graceful center and a palpable sense of God at work and involved in her life.
The church unfortunately has used Mary as a point of contention down through the centuries. At first, there was pushing and shoving between the western church in Rome, and the eastern church in Byzantium. Then, at the hinge point of the Protestant Reformation, Marian theology became an invective Protestants and Catholics could hurl at each other, as divergent theologies and ways of commemorating her memory and devotion became the subject of bitter, unrelenting argument. In the 19th century, theological fist fights broke out again, essentially in a dying gasp of Reformation animosity and the futile attempt to deny modernity. And hard feelings among Christians have continued to shadow Mary’s memory and rightful place in the church and our theology, prayer, and worship.
The truth is that there is much about Mary to celebrate in unity and gratitude. It is a testament to how inept people of faith can be, that they employ Mary as a cudgel for peevishness and shallow chauvinism. Mary herself would want us to get along because that obviously was the example she set. Some of the most beautiful, enduring words in scripture came from Mary’s mouth. “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:46-50)
One of the greatest honors that we could pay Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is to recognize that Mary spoke to the better side of all of us. We should rise to what Mary thought of us.