We celebrated Mother’s Day over the weekend that passed. The month of May is dedicated to Mary, the mother of our Lord. Hence, let us reflect on the deep spiritual dimension of Mother’s Day. When Mary became the Mother of God the already sacred vocation of motherhood was given an added holiness. Mary epitomises motherhood and offers each mother the inspirations to live out this sacred vocation courageously. One only needs to see the Blessed Virgin as a perfect model.
Much can be understood from the Annunciation scene about the sacred vocation of motherhood, God’s special providence for it and of Mary being a perfect model of it.
The angel Gabriel greeted Mary as one who was “full of grace”. It certainly implies a strong spiritual foundation that Mary had and this made her highly favourable to God to a point where she became His chosen vessel. The angel goes on to say, “You will bear a son”. Though it certainly must have troubled the heart of the simple young lady that Mary was, she nonetheless replied, “Let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:31,38). Her words were borne out of a deep trust and faith in God. Hence, Mary offers each mother the opportunity to say her own Yes with an unshakeable faith in God’s providence both for her motherhood and her offspring.
The Annunciation story goes on. God himself strengthened Mary in her newly revealed vocation call to motherhood: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35). Every mother can derive deep consolation that her conception is indeed a miracle and that she is a fundamental instrument of God in His ongoing work of creation and salvation. Most importantly, she can take great delight that her child is truly a gift from God. And with this silent joy in her heart, find the strength as Mary did, in her vocation of being a mother.
Motherhood has a mysterious way of both bringing to fore and bringing to life a strong maternal fellowship among mothers. The pregnant Virgin ministers to her pregnant cousin Elizabeth (Lk 1: 39-45). Mothers do not focus solely on themselves and their own families. Motherhood empowers mothers with a marvellously innate ability to minister to all matters that require strong maternal care and disposition. And Mary offers a great example of the spirit of selflessness and altruism. If Mary was already deeply faithful, the joy of her vocation certainly strengthened her relationship with God. The Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55) was a profound expression of Mary’s contemplation of God’s faithfulness and the joy of having encountered Him. It is her song of deep gratitude. Hence, mothers can take Mary as a model of faith in their unique spiritual journey of their vocation. Taking Mary’s lead, what song of praise mothers would like to offer up to God?
If a mother’s primary duty is to look into the physical and mundane aspects of her child’s needs, Mary provides a good example of it too. She nursed her infant in a manger on Christmas Day. His physical needs for food, shelter from the cold of the night and the need for basic comfort was judiciously looked into by a mother who had neither a medical team or concerned relatives to attend to her postnatal needs nor the comforts of her own home at the very least. The needs of her new-born had to be met in her arduous travel first to Egypt and then back to Israel from Egypt on a camel! And when the time came for the presentation in the Temple (Lk 2:22-38), we know that the infant Jesus was certainly fine and ready for the consecration. Mary not only shows mothers her maternal concern for Jesus’s physical needs but also, and perhaps more importantly, his spiritual needs too. By readily consecrating Jesus, she acknowledged that God had a plan for her Son and offers her unreserved cooperation as a mother so that God’s intended purpose for her Son comes to fruition. In the Sacrament of Baptism, each mother consecrates her child to God and promises to raise her offspring in accordance to God’s will for her child’s life. Mothers can therefore reflect upon Mary’s example on truly living out that fundamental promise to God – one that would result in the overall well-being of our children according to God’s plan.
When the gospel tells us that Jesus was obedient to Mary (Lk 2:51) it certainly implies that Mary had a code of discipline for Jesus to abide by. Parenting is by no means an easy feat. But standards should be set at home for our children to be raised into healthy, responsible adults. Mothers thus have the great responsibility in raising their children according to a standard that promotes proper conduct. And Mary again offers a glimpse into a firm but loving parenting.
As children grow up, they may get themselves entangled into untenable situations or perhaps one that may be potentially damaging to their lives. It will be tough on mothers to experience such pain in such circumstances. But therein comes Mary again as a perfect model for mothers to take courage and derive strength. At the Crucifixion, Mary suffered alongside Jesus at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:25). Even at the heights of such desolation and gloom, Mary never abandoned her child. Her enduring love is exemplary for mothers. So though life can present tenuous circumstances for mothers, let Mary be each mother’s recourse for a steadfast love in the face of personal pain and struggle.
Hence, Mother’s Day takes on a whole new spiritual dimension when we reflect upon Mary’s motherhood. By an extraordinary grace, she has become our mother too and therefore has an intimate knowledge of each of her spiritual children. As a mother would offer up her own sacrifices for her children, Mary does for her spiritual children too. So, bearing in mind these sacrifices which each mother makes, with deep gratitude we can thank our own mother on Mother’s Day and ask our Blessed Mother, the model of motherhood, to bless them and pray for them. Let us also pray that our own mothers will grow to become more like the Blessed Mother.