As the Easter Season and the month of Mary conclude, our Shepherd reminds us of the times Jesus visits with the Blessed Mother. We carry with us the model of her dignity and love as we now welcome the Holy Spirit during Pentecost.
By: Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Arlington
Throughout the world, the Church sets aside the month of May to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. Of course, May is also within the season of Easter, and the traditional Marian hymn of the Easter Season is the “Regina Coeli” (“Queen of Heaven”). Its lyrics, translated into English, are Queen of Heaven, rejoice, Alleluia; for He whom you did merit to bear, Alleluia; has risen, as he said, Alleluia. Pray for us to God, Alleluia. Its words encourage Mary to exult that her Son and Our Savior has risen as He promised He would. The lyrics, punctuated with alleluias, convey the proper joy of Easter.
It is interesting to note, then, that we have no image of Mary rejoicing at the Resurrection of her Son. The Gospels tell us that the Risen Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples on their way to Emmaus, and several times to the Apostles. We do not hear, however, that Jesus appeared to His mother.
Yet while the evangelists have not recorded the encounter with Jesus and the Blessed Mother on Easter, the tradition of the Church has always held that Our Savior visited Mary that morning, likely before He appeared to anyone else. This may be why we do not find Mary rushing about on Easter morning at the news of the empty tomb. She knows already that her Son “has risen, as he said, Alleluia.”
As Catholics, we have a particular devotion to Mary, and we understand why Our Lord would reward Our Lady with His first visit after rising from the dead. In fact, we can quickly identify three reasons for this: her faith, her perseverance and, most importantly, her Motherhood.
Several times before His Death, Jesus announced to His apostles that He would be rejected by the religious leaders, killed and raised from the dead (e.g. Lk 9:22). Despite these warnings, His Apostles were still slow to believe when confronted with the empty tomb. On the other hand, Mary was always swift to believe, even if she did not fully understand. At her Annunciation, when she asked the Archangel Gabriel how she could be the mother of God, he told her, “Nothing will be impossible for God” (Lk 1:37). Fittingly, Elizabeth greeted Mary at the Visitation by saying, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Her faith in God remained with her, even when her Son lay dead in the tomb. He promised that He would rise and she believed, for nothing is impossible for God.
The second reason Jesus would visit Mary before anyone else is to reward her perseverance. Mary endured when there was no room to rent in Bethlehem. She endured when Herod’s wrath chased her family to Egypt. She knew God had a plan, so she remained loyal to it, even when it led her to the foot of the Cross on Good Friday, watching with sorrow as her Son died for the sins of the world. Even after He was laid in a tomb, her perseverance was rewarded on the third day, when Jesus rose from the dead. We believe that He went to the side of His mother, who refused to ever leave His side.
Finally, a third reason the Risen Lord would appear to Mary is because she is His Mother. She carried Jesus in her womb and gave birth to Him. She loved Him and nurtured Him as a child, and with her husband Joseph raised Him in grace and virtue. As His mother, she was closer to Jesus than any other human. As her Son, He was closer to her, as well.
At the foot of the Cross, Jesus entrusted His beloved mother to all of us through the Apostle John, to whom Jesus said, “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:27). He tells us the same, and we do so, calling Our Lady the Mother of the Church. Through her faith, perseverance and motherhood we have a Savior. Through her honored place in heaven she intercedes for us. Through her love of us and of her Son His grace is offered to us through her whom we call the Mediatrix of All Graces. We look to Mary as the model of virtue, the help of Christians, and the Mother of Our Lord and of the Church. May she intercede for us, now and at the hour of our death.
May is also the month when we honor our mothers, living and deceased, who loved, nurtured and cared for us. We hold them dear to our hearts for giving us the gift of life. As we entrust ourselves to the care of the Blessed Mother, may we also entrust our mothers to her care as well, in gratitude for all we have received from them in this life, and that we may rejoice in the next life with them, and with our heavenly Mother and her Son, Our Risen Lord Jesus. Alleluia! Alleluia!
© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017
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