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In the midst of His agony while dying on the Cross at Calvary, Our Lord Jesus Christ left us some notable inheritances, not the least of which would be our Redemption upon His Death and Resurrection.
For another, Jesus bequeathed heaven to the good thief Dismas, when our Lord told him that, given his genuine contrition for his crimes and his request to remember Jesus when He came into His Kingdom, that very day Dismas would be with Him in Paradise (Luke 23:40-43)!
But there was another quite striking inheritance that Jesus left all of us, as recorded in John’s Gospel, in which John refers to himself as “the disciple”: We read in Chapter 19 verses 26 and 27 that “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”
It is a firm foundation of our faith that when Mary became John’s mother she became our mother as well! In having been conceived without sin and being the Mother of our Redeemer, she has a unique, extraordinary bond with her Divine Son and a fervent desire to help us all with the graces we need for our salvation!
Much has been written by theologians over the centuries concerning Mary as being our Spiritual Mother. For some examples, St. Alphonsus Liguori in his classic work The Glories of Mary wrote that “when God saw the great desire of Mary to devote herself also [that is to say like her Divine Son] to the salvation of men, he ordained that by the sacrifice and offering of the life of this same Jesus, she might cooperate with him in the work of our salvation, and thus become mother of our souls.”
For another example, St. Bernardine of Siena once said in a homily that by Jesus’ words to St. John, “Behold your mother”, “Mary was then made mother not only of St. John, but of all men, for the love she bore them.”
Sadly, it is all too easy for many well-meaning non-Catholic Christians to think of Mary as being somewhat inconsequential, or even an interloper in Catholic and Christian worship somehow, considering her brief appearances in the Gospels, relatively speaking.
They might argue this in part on the basis that Jesus just addresses her as “woman”, both in the verse quoted above and at the Wedding Feast at Cana in John’s Gospel (2:1-11).
Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. For starters, just as a reminder, we honor Mary, we don't worship her. Also, regarding Jesus calling her “woman” in these instances just mentioned, the editors of the Ignatius Study Bible note that “Although it might offend the standards of modern etiquette, this was a title of respect and endearment in antiquity.”
And speaking of the Wedding Feast at Cana, we read Mary’s last spoken words in scripture there, when she instructed the waiters to “Do whatever He [that is, Jesus] tells you” (John 2:5). This could be her maxim. She said this just before Jesus honored her request to replenish wine for the guests at the wedding by making more wine from water with just a thought!
Note also that Mary, as our Mother helping us sinners receive God’s valuable graces, is also our mediatrix par excellence! This is important to point out, given another Protestant objection stemming from St. Paul’s first letter to Timothy, chapter 1 verse 5, “that there is only one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus”.
That refers to the special intercessory role Jesus plays with God the Father. That by no means is meant to preclude other mediators. After all, don’t we all pray for each other?
That’s what Mary does for us appealing to her Divine Son. As His Mother her prayers and entreaties on our behalf are especially powerful. Does it ever hurt to get a mother’s help if you want her to put in a good word for you to her son?
Like a good caring Mother, according to church approved private revelations from the book The Life of Mary As Seen by the Mystics, compiled by Raphael Brown as well as from St. Alphonsus’ work mentioned earlier, Mary helped the followers of Christ in the founding of His church.
As such, she was instrumental with prayers, advice, and moral support for the new church until her Assumption into heaven some years later. Granted we don’t have to believe such revelations but the church has found the private revelations mentioned in these two books as being free from doctrinal or moral error.
It is also worth pointing out that as a most dutiful Mother of us, spiritually, Mary has made numerous supernatural appearances (also known as apparitions) to religious and lay people alike over the centuries on behalf of her Divine Son right up to and including our troubled times, as covered in several pages linked from this page on Marian Prayers on our website.
In one striking and famous apparition, she appeared to an Aztec Indian convert to Catholicism named Juan Diego on Tepayac Hill, near Mexico City on December 9, 1531. Shortly afterwards her image as Our Lady of Guadalupe, was miraculously imprinted on his cloak with the appearance of a Mestiza woman (of both European and Native American descent).
The picture became the focus of much veneration and was responsible for the conversion of literally millions of Aztec Indians, among others, to Catholicism.
Our Blessed Mother helped turn them away from worshiping false Gods and making countless human sacrifices. In so doing she united numerous diverse Native American cultures in the worship of the one true God who sacrificed Himself for all of us at Calvary!
Mary also miraculously cured Juan Diego’s uncle, Juan Bernardino from a serious illness on December 12th, which is now her feast day as Our Lady of Guadalupe, after calming his worried nephew with these inspiring words, which we can keep in mind for ourselves these days as well: She told Juan Diego “Do not fear this nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I, your Mother, not here? Are you not under my protection?”(Emphasis added)
On a more somber note, Mary knew throughout Jesus’ life that He would undergo a cruel death for our salvation. And indeed Simeon told her when Jesus was presented at the Jerusalem Temple when just a little baby that “your own soul a sword [of sorrow] shall pierce”, (Luke 2:35) a reference to the sufferings she would endure following the rejection and Crucifixion of her Divine Son that was destined to take place.
St. Alphonsus Liguori in his book mentioned earlier wrote that indeed “Mary suffered martyrdom in her soul; as St. Simeon had before prophesied.” St. Bernard reaffirmed this when he said of Mary that “her blessed heart was pierced by grief at the passion of her Son; a grief sufficient to cause her not only one, but a thousand deaths..”
Yet our Blessed Mother’s sadness didn’t end with her Son’s death at Calvary. That’s why we have devotions and prayers to Mary as our Sorrowful Mother (also known as Our Lady of Sorrows).
In her great love for Jesus and for fallen humanity, she has appeared somewhat somber at times in some Marian apparitions and even weeping as Our Lady of LaSallette in 1846 in France and Our Lady of Akita in Japan in the 1970’s.
She is so devoted to her Divine Son that she suffers, as does He no doubt, like many of us Christians, to see His gospel message along with the Ten Commandments, so flagrantly ignored, violated or even treated with hostility, or ridiculed these days!
As Jesus foresaw in scripture, (Matt 24:9) whether we’re in end times or not, we certainly are in days where wickedness is multiplied, and most love has grown cold.
That’s why now more than ever, we need to appeal to Mary, as our Blessed Mother, along with Jesus, His saints and the Holy Spirit for all the help, grace and guidance we can get!
As St. Alphonsus wrote, in a sentence that reads like a prayer “Oh, most loving mother! Oh, most compassionate mother be ever blessed! And may that God be ever blessed, who has given us thee as a mother, and as a secure refuge in all the dangers of this life.”
And now is also an excellent time to honor our Sorrowful Mother in prayer as well. This current turmoil and apostasy worldwide is no bed of roses for her, anymore than for Jesus. Yet we know that in the end God will set things right, and Mary’s Immaculate Heart will Triumph followed by a wonderful era of Divine peace and tranquility.
But in the meantime, beyond Lent and Holy Week, let us try to comfort our Blessed Mother and Jesus as they help us through these treacherous times with prayers, rosaries, and devotions such as the Five First Saturdays in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Ask Our Blessed Mother in prayer for her support in these difficult times, that with her help and grace you may give her some comfort as well in your loving obedience to her Divine Son!