Cardinal Newman wrote
a touching and remarkable comment about the impact of
Mary's maternity. To Newman it was plain that Jesus was
so close to Mary that he must even have physically looked
He imbibed, He absorbed into his divine Person, her
blood and the substance of her flesh; by becoming man
of her, He received her lineaments and features, as
the appropriate character in which he was to manifest
Himself to mankind. The child is like the parent, and
we may well suppose that by His likeness to her was
manifested her relationship to Him.
Ian Ker, Newman on
Being a Christian
Mary passed on to
Jesus his physical features, as Newman strikingly attests.
Her motherhood went beyond that as she formed his human
character. Mary trained and educated him as any mother
brings up a child. Her virtues would have an impact on
him. All of us realize that our mother's influence is
recognizable in us and we can reasonably conclude that
Mary's influence was evident in Jesus.
Mary was more than
merely the biological mother of the Lord Jesus. Mary's
task in the Incarnation was not over after the event in
the stable at Bethlehem. Birth was followed by education.
Mary exercised a continuous formation of the young Jesus
as he grew from infancy to childhood to the teen years
to young manhood.
The New Testament
does not tell us how this happened. There is only one
brief glimpse given by Luke 2:41-52 in the narrative of
the losing and finding of the boy Jesus in the Temple.
Mary acts like a typical mother, with the emotions of
loss and anxiety and with the maternal demand to know
why her son would go off without telling her and Joseph.
It is interesting
that Luke cites her words and not Joseph's. "Son, why
have you done this to us? Your father and I have been
looking for you with great anxiety" (2:48). These are
words we expect a mother to say. Mary is not shy about
asserting her maternal authority. It flows from her love,
of course. Why should she not have worried about him?
The passage closes with words about Jesus continuing to
grow in wisdom and grace before God and all others.
Aside from this
brief anecdote, we know nothing else about what happened
between mother and son all those years. Her maternal training
style, her motherly witness of virtues, her approach to
parenting is not recorded for us. Nonetheless, we should
not forget that it happened. Mary was indeed mother of
God. But she was also a human mother of a son who had
a human upbringing, however that occurred.
I share this reflection
with you because I believe that just as Mary knew how
to be a mother of Jesus, she knows how to be our mother,
too. She raised him in a household of faith. She had the
remarkable experience of forming him in a human and spiritual
sense while at the same time contemplating his mystery.
How this happens is not revealed to us.
This should move
us to be eager to have Mary offer us her maternal care.
Ask Mary, as I do, to mother us in faith, hope and love
of the Lord Jesus. When your heart is anxious, turn to
Mary and say, "Mary, put my heart at peace." When your
mind is too busy, look to Mary and pray, "Mary, settle
down my mind." When you want to grow and deepen your life,
look to Mary and beg, "Mary, just as you helped Jesus
grow in wisdom and grace, help me also to advance on the
spiritual path which God has laid out for me."
From the book
Alfred McBride, O. Praem.,
is a Norbertine priest. A popular lecturer and writer, he has
served as a high school teacher, novice master, university professor,
president of the University of Albuquerque and spiritual director
to Aid to the Church in Need. His books include The
Story of the Church: Peak Moments From Pentecost to the Year 2000,
Retreat With Pope John XXIII: Opening the Windows to Wisdom
(St. Anthony Messenger Press).