Mary is a prominent player in the Gospel narratives this week. From the feast of the Holy Family to the feast of Mary, Mother of God, to the Epiphany, she is there – racing to Egypt at the side of her husband and welcoming the shepherds and the magi. She doesn’t speak, but rather “holds all these things in her heart.”
For the most part, Mary lives a very hidden life. The Gospels tell us of certain crucial moments – the annunciation, the nativity, the presentation in the temple, the flight to Egypt, searching for Jesus in Jerusalem, the wedding at the Cana, and her place at the foot of the cross. She is remembered for her relationship to her Son, which is as it should be. And yet, she was a person unto herself. She was a young woman, married with a son. She put her faith in God and trusted that He would hold them in his care. Between the events recorded in scripture, she lived her life in anonymity. Like all wives and mothers, she did housework and took care of her child. She had friends in Nazareth and watched her son play in the village. She swept and cleaned and cooked and sang songs to her baby. She took care of her husband and taught her son how to pray.
When I was a new mother, struggling to adjust to life with an infant, I took comfort in the fact that Jesus was once a baby, too, and that as a mother I could turn to Mary for support. I had always prayed to Mary, but as a mother I felt a much stronger connection. Mary was a mother, too. She would understand. Mary knew what it was like to be tired in the middle of the night, to comfort a child, to worry over a sick child, and to revel in a baby’s development. I would eventually write Letters to Mary from a Young Mother to share my reflections with others in the hope that they might help other new mothers lean on Mary in their hour of need.
I have continued to talk to Mary daily in the intervening years and will continue to do so as I travel along this eventful journey known as motherhood. Yes, Jesus was a baby, but he was also a four, and five, and six-year-old boy! He played and got dirty. He probably broke a dish on occasion. Mary answered his questions and told him stories. She was also there to comfort Him when he was hurt and to rejoice with Him when He was happy. Mary continued to lean on God as she worked to bring Jesus up.
Mary is a role model for all mothers, not only for what scripture tells us about her, but also for all the hidden things that scripture remains silent about. Mothers work behind the scenes, bringing up children and keeping house. Most of what we do will never be recorded in history, yet it is important and meaningful. Mary is our guide and our friend. She shares our hidden life and we can turn to her for support and understanding. She will ask her Son to help us. She loves us as only another mother can.