In a metaphorical sense, I could describe any mother, or any woman who plays the nurturing role of a mother, as bringing God into the world. The intimate care and close bond, which is much more than physical, as much as the words of teaching, can shape or deform a child’s sense of God. That rapport may bring the reality of God to consciousness, or inflect irreparable damage on the child’s spiritual development.
Sometimes this task is completed or corrected later in life by a mother figure; think of the unlikely impact Mother Teresa had on Malcolm Muggeridge in his old age. I’d imagine you could contribute your own examples.
With Mary, the God-bearing is not metaphorical; yet that more common role also had to play its part if Jesus of Nazareth is as human as he is divine.
Today’s Gospel offers the tantalizing insight that Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Christian writers have not hesitated to elaborate those reflections, though Luke and the other evangelists provide no information. Much of such speculation has not withstood the test of time; too much may have sprung from fantasy and wish fulfillment.
But this is no futile avenue of consideration. If I wish to glimpse something of the inner life of Mary—and how she formed her son’s consciousness of God and faith—I need only look at Jesus himself: his ministry, his example, his teaching or his relationships. Mary had to have left an imprint there.
How many of us, past middle age, catch ourselves doing or saying something and realize, “I’m acting just like my mother” or “like my father”? If you cook or clean, have you ever looked down and realized that’s your mother’s hand at work? If Jesus is truly human, his experience could be no different. I won’t find a detailed picture, but if I want a rough sketch of Mary’s inner life, I only need look at Jesus.
Mary’s place in the faith community is a challenge to each of us. She still struggles to bear God into the Church, but do my habitual attitudes act as a midwife, or do I frustrate the labor?