Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Am I Not Your Mother?

Am I Not Your Mother?

          “Am I not your mother?”  These are some of the words spoken to the Aztec Indian Juan Diego by the Blessed Virgin Mary when she appeared to him in the sixteenth century in Mexico.
          Today is January 1, the feast of Mary, the Mother of God.  This title of Mary is one the Church has defended for many centuries.  That Mary is theotokos – God bearer – has been an important teaching throughout the history of Christianity and bears mainly on the Person of Jesus Christ.  Because Christ is a divine Person, He is God, fully and completely.  As the Church defined her dogma about Christ, that He is one Person with two natures, fully God and fully man, it followed that His mother is the mother of God.  Not that she existed eternally before God, nor that she is somehow the source of the Blessed Trinity, but because she is the mother of Jesus, and Jesus is God, the title Mother of God is appropriate and accurate.
          But Christ, on the Cross, said to the beloved disciple, “Behold your mother.”  These words, directed to St. John, have been consistently interpreted by the Church to apply to all of us.  Certainly St. John himself, in the Book of Revelation, makes that clear.
          The twelfth chapter of Revelation begins with John’s vision of a woman, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and with a crown of twelve stars.  It is filled with symbolism, and we should not forget that the last line of Chapter 11 (the chapters, of course, were not designated by John himself, but were added centuries later for the purposes of easy reference) gives a profound hint about what John is seeing.  Immediately before the description of the Woman, John says that he sees the Ark of the Covenant.
          Whatever else the Woman may represent, we can not deny that she is certainly the Ark of the New Covenant, the Blessed Virgin Mary.  John tells us that she gives birth to a son who will rule all nations with an iron rod.  The dragon (satan) tries to devour the son, but he can not.  Then he turns on the woman, but he is unable to harm her as well.  Finally, as verse 17 tells us, the dragon wages war on “the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus.”  Us.  We Christians, who are at war with the dragon even now, are the rest of the woman’s offspring.
          “Am I not your mother?”  I suspect it is no mere coincidence that the image on Juan Diego’s tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe bears such a striking resemblance to the image St. John saw nearly fifteen centuries before.
          We should not ignore the words of Our Lady to St. Juan Diego, for she speaks them to us as well.  “Am I not your mother?”  She is.  So what does that mean to us?
          We Catholics are often accused by our Protestant brethren of giving Mary the worship and honor that belongs only to God.  Of course, we do not.  Only God receives the worship due to God.  We must not be self-conscious of our devotion to Mary because of the unwarranted accusations of Protestants.  We may become so fixated on it that we will ignore her, and God Himself has given her to us.
          Do we come to her as a mother?  It is easy to say a Hail Mary without even thinking about it.  When we ask for Our Lady’s intercession, the most powerful of all the Saints’, we ask for her prayers, the prayers of our mother.
          God has blessed me with a wonderful mother here on earth, and I can’t remember one time, at any age, that I came to her in need, and was rebuffed.  She has comforted me, prayed for me, cried with me, and given me strength when I had none.  Do I come to my heavenly mother with the same trust?  Often, I do not.  As with God, sometimes we acknowledge Mary in passing, but do not truly turn to her or foster a relationship with her.
          In the Memorare we say that never was it known that anyone who sought her intercession was left unaided.  Being a child of God makes us part of a family.  And this family has a mother.  On this New Year’s Day, the feast of Mary, the Mother of God, let us resolve to truly take her this year as our mother, in our hearts, and let us never be ashamed to love her.