As Catholics, we believe that we are called to approach the world as God does. We are to act with love, compassion, generosity, mercy and forgiveness. God, in His infinite wisdom, recognized that we would need role models, persons to highlight different pathways of spirituality, vision and faith. The saints stand for us as guides along the way, offering us their lives as inspiration for our own. Mary stands out among these holy ones.
Pope Francis has called for a special Jubilee, a Year of Mercy. The Year of Mercy won’t officially begin until December, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t start preparing ourselves for it now. When announcing the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis said:
“How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God…May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the kingdom of God is already present in our midst.” (Full text here)
When I heard the words of Pope Francis, I found the image of a mother come to mind, in particular, of course, our spiritual mother, Mary.
A number of years ago now I was given a series of writings by Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare Movement, a lay movement in the Church. In one letter written during the beginning of the Marian Year in 1987, Chiara challenges her readers to consider our imitation of Mary and how adopting the heart of Mary, the heart of a mother, could change our attitudes and actions. I have read and reread this letter a number of times and each time I am caught by this call to transformation. What would the world look like if we endeavored to mold our heart after Mary’s own Immaculate Heart?
Mary, at her most basic and essential, is a mother. She is the physical mother of Jesus and, by his desire on the cross, is the spiritual mother of the Church. If we are to adopt the heart of Mary, then we are striving to adopt the heart of the mother par excellence. A mother, in the most ideal sense (indeed in Mary’s sense) is open to life, is able to love without needing, requiring or expecting love in return, is willing to sacrifice or suffer on behalf of her children, is capable of forgiveness, and is able to live in harmony with others.
We see all of these characteristics played out in the Scriptures. Mary is open to the new life placed in her womb by the Spirit. She loves the couple married in Cana by recognizing their need and acting upon it, without expecting recognition or praise. She sacrificed the dreams she may have had for her life and accepts God’s will when she is visited by the angel and again at the foot of the cross. She forgives Jesus after he forgets to tell her that he wanted to stay behind to pray and talk in the Temple. She finds harmony with Joseph even though the beginnings of their marriage were not the societal norm and placed Joseph in an uncomfortable situation.
Adopting a mother’s heart means looking at the world with a motherly perspective. As a mother, I know that I see my children in a different light than others. I see their best qualities first and praise them highly for them. I see their less than best qualities as well and only have thoughts of support, encouragement and assistance as they learn and grow. I am quick to supply their every need within the realm of my capability. I intentionally spend time with each of them, wanting to connect on an intimate level. The relationship I have with my children is precious, it is how I feel about the relationship I have with my own mother and how I want my relationship with Mary and Jesus to be.
Mary simply offers us her heart. If we wish to grow closer to her Son, we are more apt to find Him in our world if we see one another as Mary sees us. Mary always directs her gaze, and ours, to Christ. When I approach a person as if I were their mother, I adopt a specific attitude toward them. In Chiara’s words, “A mother is always welcoming, always helpful, always hopeful, and covers up everything. She forgives everything in her children.” When we adopt Mary’s heart as our own, “we shall be ever ready to love others in all circumstances, so that we keep the Risen One living in us…If we have the heart of this mother, we will love everybody, not just the members of our own Church, but those of others too. Not only Christians, but also Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc., and all people of goodwill, everyone dwelling on the earth, because the maternity of Mary is as universal as the Redemption.” What a beautiful world we could create, where we love first with a mother’s love.
As we draw closer to the Year of Mercy, I am finding that my best expression of it will be to model my heart after Mary’s. In doing so, I hope that my perspective will widen and my capacity for love and mercy will deepen.
To Ponder: What is one way that you see Mary’s presence in your life? What characteristics or qualities of Mary would you want to better imitate during the Year of Mercy?
Copyright 2015 Kate Taliaferro.
Photo by Hans Braxmeier (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain