Mother and Disciple: The Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Zechariah 2:14-17; Matthew 12:46-50

We may hear today’s gospel and wonder how any son could treat his mother like that, let alone the Son of God. Hearing that his mother is outside he doesn’t stop speaking and invite her in; rather, he uses her appearance to make the point that everyone who does the will of God is his mother. Shouldn’t Mary be insulted?

No. She is doubly honored.

First, remember that this is not just any son; this is Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God. Engaged in the mission for which he was sent, the salvation of souls, he was speaking about radical fidelity to the will of God. Faith binds us to Christ and to each other with a love born not in the blood of kinship but in his own precious blood. If his teaching shocked people, so be it. His point was not about Mary’s faithfulness, it was about ours.

Indeed, faithfulness is her first honor. As St. Augustine said, Mary conceived her Son in faith before she conceived him in her womb. We think of her as his mother and rightly so for it was by her fiat that he came into the world, but we must also remember that she was his first and best disciple. Mary is the only person to appear in the gospels from before his conception until the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

It may seem ironic that from the faithful dwelling of her motherhood Mary invited him in yet he, her Son, refused to return the favor. But again Mary loved him as both mother and disciple. As mother she might feel the sting of his words as he broadened “family” from the ties of blood to those of faith, but as disciple she knew and lived their truth. Despite whatever personal pain the truth may cause it is always the source of joy, for joy is happiness in pursuit of the good and Mary lived her life in hope of attaining the greatest good: Eternal union in heaven with God who is love.

Love is the second honor of Mary. Only through love do we live life to the full and this necessarily includes all the joys and sorrows that go with it. We might think that in his mercy Christ would spare his own mother the pain of suffering but actually the opposite is true: He loved her too much to deprive her of it. What kind of love knows no sorrow, feels no pain, and never suffers? Rightly is Mary the Mother of Sorrows for in her great love she suffered many times over, from the mystical sword that pierced her heart to her Son’s burial in the tomb. Yet as Scripture reminds us, love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7) and is as deep as death (Song of Songs 8:6); Mary’s love for Jesus could not be broken by any boundary of space or time, but did reach perfection in his love for her: her own glorious Assumption.

stained-glass-4506616_640The two themes of fidelity and love are interwoven in the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The presentation of oneself to God is an act of great faith and deep love. Whether Mary demonstrated her faith and love in a formal consecration to God in the Temple as described in the ancient non-biblical documents is irrelevant. Every day of Mary’s life was a presentation, a self-offering, an abandonment to the divine will made possible by the movement of grace within her. Long before he dwelled within her womb, indeed from the moment of her immaculate conception, our Lord dwelled within her soul and bestowed upon it the fullness of grace, his very life. By her response to that grace, Mary most truly defines what it means to be a Temple of the Holy Spirit.

What does all this mean for us? It means that as Mary has done so we are invited to do. St. Paul said, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? … Therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:20). May we never forget that every time we receive Holy Communion we present ourselves to God in an act of faith and love like Mary his handmaid, that we too may glorify God in our bodies.

Blessed Mother intercede for us, that like you we may be among those to whom Christ says, “whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50).

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