MANILA – In the US of A, the month of May is significant in that it is Older Americans Month, and I have written about it to help senior citizens celebrate (see my "US, Unhappy Seniors!? Citizens & The Real Generation Gap," Age of Discovery! blogspot.com). I even suggested an Older Filipinos Month.
After that, Neneng, a long-distance friend and mother, made me realize that May is more important than just being for exalting Mothers on the 8th, than just bringing honor to the older adults by recognizing their achievements as well as their health needs for all of 31 days. "Please write about mothers," she said. What could I say? I was not a Marian as the National Hero Jose Rizal was (see my "Charice dreams. Knights of Rizal Pablo Trillana III believes, I act?" Creattitudes, blogspot.com). Was there anything new to say about an old topic? Then I thought about Mary as Mother.
For sure, in the Philippines, when we think of May, we think of the Flowers of May, Flores de Mayo, and associate these with Mary the Virgin Mother. Indeed, one of the many titles of the Virgin Mary is "Model of Mothers." Now then, more than the 8th of May as Mother’s Day, more than all senior citizens combined, the whole of May is the Merry Month of Mary, Mother of Jesus the Christ, who suffered under Pontius Pilate and was crucified because he would not worship or bow to the Roman gods. Mary the Mother suffered when Jesus the Son suffered; she suffered even more when he was nailed on the cross and left to die there, slowly – and she was watching, helplessly.
We are just beginning to look at Mother Mary as the Model of Mothers.
When the angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary she was going to conceive and give birth to a son, her faith in God was being tested. The whole story is told in Luke 1: 26-45 (NRSV Catholic Edition). "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" And the angel told her in no uncertain terms: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God." Which was okay, really, but this was a stranger telling a young girl that according to the will of God she was going to bear a child without as much as even a hint of a love affair, and she and the messenger had just met! This was a woman being told she was going to conceive in her womb a son without the need of a man. Not humanly possible. Yet Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Here I am Lord, seed me!
If you were the young girl, what would you have done? What would you have said? You probably would have thought, what’s his name again? Gabriel was crazy, insane, a megalomaniac. Not Mary. Mary was already a model even before she was a mother.
At this point, I have this insight: If Mary were a Filipino and she lived in one of the slums of Metro Manila, today her poverty-conscious President Noynoy Aquino along with the gentlemen who believe in him, knowing that she is betrothed to Joseph and marriage is in her mind, and thinking that the Filipinos are multiplying too fast for the economy to catch up, and that he would approve of 2 becoming 1 but not 2 becoming 11, would tell her, "Go forth and do not multiply!" For more on the Multiplication Fable, also known as the Malthusian Theory, see my "Noynoy’s RH Bill. Couples for Christ & Frank’s Parable of the Talents," 25 March 2011, American Chronicle. Fable, I said – you know, where the animals speak as if they were people! In response, what would have Mary said? "Be it done unto me according to the Lord." God bless your Mary, gentlemen!
The willing student and would-be Mother was being instructed as well as informed by God:
And you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.
Mary had no way of knowing whether what the angel told her was true. She could have chosen to not believe, but she chose to believe. Blessed are those that have not seen and yet have believed!
Accepting the word of the angel as gospel truth, nevertheless Mary was disturbed. She had to talk to someone, confide in her what news the angel had brought to her. She visited her relative Elizabeth in a hilly town of Judea. When Mary greeted Elizabeth who herself was pregnant by God’s grace, the child in her womb leaped for joy. At that point, the Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth and she exclaimed, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." A lesson for mothers: Each mother should feel blessed with each fruit of her womb.
If Mary was an unexpectant mother, so was Elizabeth. She and her husband Zechariah, a priest, had been childless for years, as she was barren. Nevertheless, they had been praying for a child. When the angel appeared to Zechariah, "he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him" (Luke 1: 12). He lost the power of speech. Zechariah’s faith was like Joseph’s – reluctant. Elizabeth’s faith was like Mary’s: accepting. Elizabeth was old and barren but, at least in this instance, there was a male parent to unite with a female parent!
We now have 2 role models for a mother. Mary, young, innocent, with her full trust in God. Elizabeth, old, barren, with her whole faith in the Lord. God helps all mothers who have faith in God and in themselves.
When Elizabeth’s son was going to be baptized, the neighbors and relatives wanted the child named after his father, but she said no, he was going to be called John. Although infirmed, Zechariah confirmed the choice of name by writing it out. Mother knows better.
A decree from Emperor Augustus came, requiring everyone to be registered in the town proper. It was the time when Quirinius was Governor of Syria. In obedience to the decree, Joseph, to whom the Virgin Mary was betrothed, and who had accepted the fact that his wife’s pregnancy did not originate from him, brought his beloved with him. She did not object, even if she knew she was expecting a child anytime now. She had faith that Joseph would take good care of her in her condition. And yes, it happened that she gave birth to her firstborn, a boy, and they wrapped him in swaddling clothes, "and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn" (Luke 2: 1-7).
The Virgin Mary, now a mother, what could she have been thinking as she looked down at her newborn son lying in that lowly manger – that the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer? No, she was thinking about the bright future of this boy. Didn’t the angel tell her?
Mothers always want the best for their children, don’t they? He will be great. He will inherit the throne of his ancestor David. He will be king forever. She had no way of knowing that there was a price to pay, and what a terrible price! It is good that mothers don’t know sometimes.
An angel appeared to some shepherds and told them of the good news (Luke 2: 8-14): "To you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord." If they visited, they would see a child wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger. Believing what they had heard, the shepherds did what they had been told. And they told Mary what the angel had told them. And "Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart" as before (Luke 1: 19). She must have been thinking: "What does that mean, ‘Savior?’ What does that mean, ‘Messiah?’" She knew soldiers of the Roman Army were there, everywhere, and so were the spies – enemies of the people. Was her son going to deliver them from their iniquities?
When the time came, according to the law of Moses, Joseph and Mary brought him to Jerusalem "to present him to the Lord" and offered as sacrifice a pair of young pigeons (Luke 2: 22-24). There was nothing to it; this was customary for a firstborn male. The rest of the story is told in Luke 2: 25-52 as follows:
At that time, there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, who was "righteous and devout" and to whom the Holy Spirit had revealed that before he dies, he would see for himself the Lord’s Messiah. And so, guided by the Spirit, when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus into the temple and Simeon saw the boy, he took the child in his arms and praised God, for "a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."
Simeon knew in his heart who the child was going to be. Joseph and Mary didn’t know what to say about what Simeon was telling them about their son Jesus. Simeon blessed them and then told Mary:
This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too.
The heart of Israel will be pierced with a sword, and so will the heart of Mary! The Bible does not tell us how Mary took this prophecy, but it must have hit her hard, very hard. Who is the mother who would allow her child to be sacrificed for the sake of the lords of society?
After that, every year when Joseph and Mary went for the festival of the Passover, they brought Jesus along with them. When he was 12, they went as usual to the festival; when they were returning home, they discovered that Jesus was not with them. When they could not find him among their relatives and friends, they went back to Jerusalem and found Jesus in the temple, "sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions." Unlike Pontius Pilate, here was a boy who asked questions – and stayed for the answers.
Mother Mary wasn’t amused. They had been searching for Jesus for 3 days, and who is the mother who wouldn’t be worried? The boy had not told anyone about his intentions to stay. Boys will always be boys!
Mary: "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety."
Jesus: "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?"
Of course they didn’t know what he was talking about! He might as well have been talking Greek to them. Yet, while Mary didn’t know, she understood. As an obedient child, Jesus returned with his father and mother to Nazareth, and never again showed any disobedience. And Mary? The good mother that she was, she kept all those things and pondered them in her heart.
"And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor." Mothers are the first teachers of their children, so it must have been Mother Mary who taught Jesus what she knew – even including what he knew but Mary didn’t know he knew. Jesus couldn’t tell Mother Mary everything he knew, could he?
Then there was this wedding at Cana in Galilee, where Jesus and his disciples were invited, and so was Mother Mary; the story is in John 2: 1-12. When they ran out of wine, Mary said to Jesus, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to Mother Mary, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." Not minding what Jesus said, Mary told the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." You know the rest of the story: The water turned to wine. The son obeyed the mother anyway. Son knows more; Mother knows better! What kind of a son who refuses his mother’s request?
Mother Mary was there at the crucifixion; the story is told in John 19: 25-27. Together with her near the cross where the soldiers had hanged Jesus waiting for the inevitable was John, the author of the gospel, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus said to Mother Mary, "Woman, here is your son." And he said to John, "Here is your mother." After Jesus died and was buried, Mother Mary went to John’s home. The mother obeyed the son anyway. Mother knows more; Son knows best! What kind of a Mother who refuses his son’s last request? She knew in her heart it was the right thing to do.
My question now is: Why is it that Mary the Mother of Jesus was called blessed and yet she suffered much? My answer is: I don’t know. What I know is that, with Mary as their Model, just as Mary was, mothers will be given much blessings and much suffering. Like Mother Mary, mothers must accept both and treasure them and ponder them in their hearts. And blessed are the fathers who accept this – and woe unto them who do not!