Write In Between

Friday, May 02, 2008

Motherhood, Mary, and the "More" of God

Some thoughts for mothers in Mary’s month…

A mother can find her inspiration for life—by the gift of life itself—in all seasons. There are mothers who sense newness in the crisp air of fall when school begins. They feel renewed even though leaves are starting to turn. Other mothers find newness and fresh possibilities every January 1. Still others find life in the rhythm of the liturgical cycle. They dream of what’s to come from a mystical point of view. For many moms, nothing speaks to the heart like the newness of spring. They revel in delicate buds that burst forth flowers, or the brown grass greening up, or the simple joy of watching young birds at the feeder; it all tells the story of new life.

A mother sees “the more” in life… more than what meets the eye. This natural awareness in a mother’s heart comes from her experience of bringing forth human life and nurturing it. It is both primal and profound. Motherhood’s inspirations, beauty, and drama, all demand her faithful attention and response. And all this responsiveness—this receptivity—engenders faith to see the supernatural in the midst of the natural.

In short, mothers recognize and respond to the mystery and marvel of new life in all of its preciousness in humanity and in nature. It reverberates within us. It’s this intangible, indescribable, awakened life pulse that cannot be shut off. Like a quickened heartbeat, we become keenly aware of it. It is a dynamic intuition… the sense that there is something more than what we see.

Let me dare to say that this sensitivity in a woman’s life is a kind of holy intuition: a recognition of the movement of the Holy Spirit—He who is the “Lord and giver and life.” It is an invitation to grow in holiness.

What we perceive, in the newness of the life around us, is what we were born for: to receive the very life of God who made us, who loves us intimately. We are getting a taste of His Fullness of life in such moments. These experiences call us to seek “the more” of God...The “more” that we can receive when our hearts are aflame with the Spirit.

But how do we find and receive this “more” of God? By asking Him into our hearts. In doing so, we give God permission to enter in, and then we can say “yes” to his leading, wherever it may lead. During this month of May, allow me to suggest that women take Mary as their example. The Blessed Virgin Mary understands the “moreness” of God.

Nothing is more passionate than a mother’s heart for her children, especially when it is wedded to the Holy Spirit as Mary’s is. The crystal clear reality is that the heart of our Blessed Mother Mary beats for you and me.

Mary can be trusted as our mother and tutor. She’s got great credentials. If God the Father entrusted His Son to her “yes”, and Jesus lovingly submitted to her care and wisdom, we can too. (Not to mention, countless saints have already followed Mary’s path to holiness.)

Mary knows how to say “yes” to life within her, and “yes” to the life around her. She knows how to respond to the reverberations and inspirations of the Spirit. She is our model for Christian life and motherhood. She is our mother in all seasons. She understands how to keep it all in balance. What’s more, she can show us how to love her Son more perfectly. And when we love Jesus better, His Love enlivens us to love others more perfectly.

Mary models how we should respond to the move of God in our own lives, so we can live the more of God as his Spirit fills us. Who wouldn’t want more of God, right?

But, sometimes, we might find it hard to embrace Mary’s ways.

Years ago, for me, Mary seemed rather distant from my life. (But the truth was that my life was rather distant from Mary’s!) I only thought of Mary in a static dimension. (You know, like a statue.) I confused staid depictions of Mary with the truth about her nature as a human person brimming with grace. I had false impressions that were not rooted in Scripture or Church teaching. Suffice to say, her presence in my spiritual life was lacking. I treated her like she did not matter. I didn’t know what I was missing.

Enter her Son, Jesus, calling me to live a holier life. Part of that calling for me was to become a mother. Motherhood brought profound changes in me. I experienced both new depths in prayer and wonder, and new needs in my life. Having always been a resourceful and capable woman, I struggled with the more sacrificial and surrendering aspects of motherhood. Many times, I was reduced to tears… profoundly disappointed with the mediocrity of my own love. Yet, I could sense there was something more.

As a Catholic, I knew Mary’s role both as Christ’s mother and his disciple was worthy of imitation. But, honestly, my cultural feministic attitudes were deeply ingrained. I just didn’t want to give up any of the feministic or materialistic ground or power I had gained in life. I confess it was a struggle with my will. But Mary helped me reshape it.

Mary taught me to say “yes” to mysteries I could not fathom. What drew me most to Mary’s heart were her lively faith and her complete willingness to give someone else the credit. She always pointed the way to Christ. She never pointed to herself. Mary’s self-effacing title of “handmaid” was something to rejoice in! [See Luke 1:38; 46-48.] Of course, for centuries the Church has elevated her: She is “Mother of God,” and “Mother of the Church.” [See CCC 963.] Even Christ Himself gave her to us as His final gift from the Cross. [See John 19:27.] These lofty declarations about Mary implied something more about Mary that I had failed to see.

Over time, I learned that my struggle wasn’t with Mary and motherhood at all. It was with humility.

What was it about Mary’s humility that I failed to understand?

It is that hers is not a powerless humility. But her power is not her own. Mary’s humility is filled with the presence of God. In God’s economy, humility is not meant to belittle one’s personhood. On the contrary, it is the necessary condition for a Spirit-imbued life that fulfills one’s personhood.

Humility helps us grow in holiness through detachment to anything that is less than God himself. Humility detaches us from what fails to satisfy. Only by getting rid of the excesses (sins, vices, etc.) that attach themselves to our souls can we have the room and empty space that God Himself longs can fill. And as He fills it, He draws us toward deeper union with Him.

Mary’s humility is borne of pure love for the One who is greater and more perfect than she. Yet it is ready to receive and respond to the sublime Divine Love that dares to love a creature. God’s response to that perfected humility is that no gifts of grace are held back from Mary, whom the angel called “full of grace.” [See Luke 1:28.] Empty of sin, full of grace, Mary is gifted to do great things for Him who “has done great things for her.” [Luke 1:49.] And in turn, she can do great things for us as our Mother whose maternal heart beats for us and for Him simultaneously!

Mary shows us that our inspirations are good things. They reflect our inclination toward something more—our truest yearning for God. She can help us respond to God’s invitation ever more deeply. We just have to ask for her help. Ask Mary to help you love Jesus in the ways that she does. Ask her to teach you how to give a full, complete “yes” to God’s leading in your life. Recall that God holds nothing back from Mary. It’s part of her maternal role in the Kingdom of God to assist us in growing in grace. She longs for us to experience the “more” God has in store for us.

Remember, nothing is more passionate than a mother’s heart for her children, especially when it is wedded to the Holy Spirit.

©2008 Patricia W. Gohn

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home