Mother Mary: a reflection for Mothering Sunday

Every young mother thinks her child is special. There is no other child as beautiful or as clever as her child. Fr Mary her son was even more special. The angel Gabriel had told her that he would be called “the Son of the Most High” and that “the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David”.   She was given the privilege of being the mother of the Messiah. It must then have been with great pride that Mary watched her son grow up.

Yet Mary discovered to her cost that being a mother was not easy.  What agony she must have gone through when Jesus as a 12 year old Jesus went missing for three days.  Fortunately the missing child was found in the Temple. “My son”, said Mary, “why have done this to us? Your father and I have been terribly worried trying to find you”.  To her bewilderment Jesus replied you: “Why did you have to look for me?  Didn’t you know that I had to be in my father’s house?”. It couldn’t have been easy being a mother to Jesus.

A few years later came the time for Jesus to marry. For with few exceptions it was obligatory for all Jewish men to marry and father children. If they failed to do so, they were accused of “slaying their seed”.  As a healthy, wholesome, and probably personable young man, there could have been a good many mothers in Nazareth and beyond who coveted him as a son-in-law. In those days parents were normally involved themselves in finding husbands or wives for their children. Mary would have been expected to look around for a suitable marriage partner for her son. Instead, she may have had to explain to Jesus that sometimes a special call from God precluded marriage. It could not have been easy for Mary to have had her son living at home in his twenties, still single.

The day finally came when Jesus left home. Mary no doubt looked forward to that day when Jesus embarked upon his ministry. But what a disappointment he proved. From the start he got mixed up with the wrong sort of people.  He made friends with tax-collectors, prostitutes and other dubious characters. True, Mary must have been thrilled by the way in which the crowds initially flocked to Jesus. What mother would not have been proud of a son who taught and healed like Jesus?  But after three years his ministry seemed to end in disaster.

At the age of 33 Jesus ended up, naked, on a cross. Whereas Greeks unembarrassed by the naked body, Jews found the exposure of the body most shameful. Of course Mary had seen her son naked before – she had washed him as a baby in his birthday suit! But now his nakedness was displayed for all to see

For Mary shame must have been mixed with bewilderment. The angel had said that her son was to be the Messiah. Mary had thought this involved bringing the powerful down from their thrones, but in the end it was the powerful who brought down her son. Where was God in all this?

Then there was the pain of seing her child die before her. It just should not be.  We should die before our children. 33 years previously Mary had sung:  “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit exults in God my saviour”.  Now, if she had sung at all, she would have declared:  “My soul is in pain before the Lord, my spirit in anguish in God my deceiver”   Simeon had warned her that a sword would pierce her soul – and how right he was.

It would have been understandable if Mary had kept away from the cross.  But Mary was there, “standing near the cross”, standing by her son.  She may not have understood him or approved of the stance he had taken; but nonetheless, she was prepared to stand by him, come what may. Jesus might have been a criminal in the eyes of the law, but as far as she was concerned, he was still her son. Mary reflected true motherhood.

In the words of Kipling;

If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o’mine, O mother o’mine!
I know whose love would follow me still
Mother o’mine, O mother o’mine!

If I were downed in the deepest sea,
Mother o’mine, O mother o’mine!
I know whose tears would come down to me,
Mother o’mine, O mother o’mine!

If I were damned of body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
Mother o’mine, O mother o’mine!

In “standing near the cross” Mary surely brought comfort to her son in his final agony.  She doesn’t seem to have said anything, but that didn’t matter.  In times of trouble it’s not words which count, but being there. Mary stood by her son in his darkest hour, and in so doing Mary set an example to us all. It may be that our children are in the wrong; it may be that they have tested our patience to breaking point; but ultimately parenthood is about standing by our children, come hell or high water. Mary cared for her child – right to the very end.  So too should we, however our difficult our children may prove!

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