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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Behold Your Mother...

"All generations will call me blessed"
Yes, I realize Mother’s Day was Sunday but since May is the month of the Blessed Mother, i.e. the mother of all mothers, I’m still within the Mother’s Day time frame for this blog.

Dr. Scott Hahn, who happens to be one of my favorite authors, once wrote that at the foot of the cross, Jesus’ home became our home. His Father became our father and His mother became our mother.

Sadly, many non-Catholics have as much aversion to Mary's motherhood as humility has to a Rick Sanchez radio show (I’m sorry, did I just write that out loud?).

In fact, I recall someone near and dear to me, who left the Catholic Church, once telling me, "She's not my mother!" when the topic of Mary came up in a discussion about our faith.

I'll be honest, as a freshly-minted revert at the time, I didn't have much to offer on the subject but, thankfully, the exchange left a lasting impression and prompted me to dig deeper into what the Church believes.  It wasn't long before I discovered that, according to the Bible, which all Christians hold as the infallible Word of God, Mary is the mother of all who believe in her son (and not just the Catholic ones!).

"Then the dragon was angry at the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus."  (Rev 12:17) 
As I'm sure most of us would attest, a mother's love is immeasurable.  I love my mom and, as a parent, I know she loves me more than I can ever love her.  In fact, in all of humanity, there is probably no greater love than the love of a mother for her children, although, as a father, I might argue that a dad's love is close behind.

Still, after watching, learning and experiencing motherhood from a different perspective as a husband, I have to admit that, with rare exceptions, there is no closer bond than that of a mother and her child.

Of course, I'm not making any novel observation.  As most of us know, moms form a unique connection with their children from the time they are expecting.  Not only do they carry the baby for forty weeks (give or take, according to the pregnancy), but, during that time, their blood intermingles and nourishment flows from the mother to the baby; creating a total and absolute dependency, that no father could ever match (not even Jim Anderson or Mike Brady!).

Then, after months of sleepless nights, back aches, indigestion, gas and swelling up like the Puffer Fish in Finding Nemo, they finally give birth, which in my wife's case, couldn't come fast enough and looked excruciatingly painful, to the point where, seeing my usually tough-as-nails marathon running wife whimper during the birth of our second daughter, I inadvertently told her to "suck it up," which I have yet to live down.

And, for those moms that opt to try to lessen the blow, or because of some complication, have to go with the other option, which requires surgery, the throes of childbirth aren't much better.  My son, my brother and I were born through C-section, which only makes the recovery even more agonizing!  In other words, the operative word, as "Clubber" Lang said when asked to give a prediction about his fight against Rocky Balboa, in Rocky III, is "Pain!"

The bond continues to grow after the baby is born.  They feed their child from their own body (although my wife bottle fed and the one time she did try to breast feed, it was too painful for me to watch!), cuddle and comfort them when they are crying and nurture them when they are sick.  

Although fathers are also irreplaceable in the development of their kids, mothers often set the tone and rules around the house.  They teach their kids right from wrong, guide and instruct them about life and discipline them when needed (up until I was too old for her to control, my mom was the disciplinarian in our house).

So, a mother's love and devotion to her children are boundless, which reminds me of the many times my kids go to my wife to kiss their boo-boos when they get hurt because, as everyone knows, a mother's kiss has magical healing powers!

My mom is so supportive that on my first day of high school (10th grade back then), I was so distraught about going to this big school, where I didn't know anyone (I wasn't sure), and wasn't remotely familiar with, that, since she was a Miami-Dade public school teacher, at the time, and had been to my high school before, she showed me around the building and walked me to my homeroom classroom (I'm sure by now my wife is thinking, "That explains a lot!").

In any case, this brings me back to Mary.

If I, who am very flawed, selfish and self-centered (and you can ask my wife and children if you have any questions), can love my mom unconditionally, or at least as close to unconditionally as humanly possible, as most children love their mother (despite the occasional Adam Lanza in the group), how much more can the One who is Love, is perfectly self-giving and chose the woman that would carry, raise and be with Him until his dying day, love her?

Powerful little book...
Something I read in a book recently really gave me a fresh perspective on the Blessed Virgin, who I already held dear to my heart.

In his popular book, 33 Days to Morning Glory, which is based on the Marian writings of St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Bl. Pope John Paul II, Fr. Michael Gaitley points out something I had never considered before. He wrote that the first person to entrust his life to Mary was none other than God himself.

That's a very poignant taught.  Consider that she was to be the mother of His Son. Her human blood would mix with His Divine Blood. She would feed Him from her own bosom, love him, teach him, protect him and raise him (with the help of St. Joseph, let's give some credit the father here!) to be the man that he was meant to be.

And, make no mistake; Jesus was fully man. He experienced the love of his mother and for his mother, as all of us experience, only their bond is even deeper because, as great as a mother's love for her child can be, and being a parent, I would say that my children can never love me as much as I love them, she could never love Him more than He loves her. It is love taken to its infinite degree (literally speaking, since we're talking about God and His Kingdom!).

Moreover, as a devout Jew, Jesus was also faithful to the Law of Moses, i.e. the Ten Commandments, among which state, "Honor Your Father and Mother." Therefore, Jesus, who we believe is Lord of Lord and King of Kings, always honored his mother.

Hence, as Catholics, we are only imitating Christ! We can never love or give Mary more honor than she hasn't already been given by Jesus himself.

In fact, her role in Salvation History is intricately grafted to her son's role. He, in his humanity, was part of her (probably even looking like her) and she a part of Him. And accordingly, she is the only constant in His life from birth to death.

Therefore, at the foot of the cross, when every breath He took was excruciatingly painful, after having suffered hours of torture and knowing the end was near, we read in John's Gospel, "When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, 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 into his own home."  (John 19:26-27)

We are that beloved disciple and, as such, despite what some may think, Mary is our mother too and our  response, as Fr. Gaitley suggests in his book, should be to take her into our home and make her our own as well...

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