We are getting ready to celebrate the new Marian feast instituted by Pope Francis.
The memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of the Church that we will celebrate on the Monday after Pentecost, this year on May 21, marks an important — I would even say prophetic — rediscovery of an ancient devotion.
The first Christians had a deep awareness that the Church was their spiritual “mother,” giving birth to them in baptism and forming them as children of God through the sacraments into one universal family of God.
Jesus spoke of gathering the children of Jerusalem as a mother hen gathers her brood, and St. Paul spoke of “the Jerusalem above, our mother.”
The idea was that the Church is the new Jerusalem, the new mother of the family of God.
St. Paul described the Church’s ministry in family terms. “We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children,” he wrote to the Thessalonians. In the same passage, he spoke of treating each person “as a father treats his children.”
In the New Testament, the apostles often referred to the faithful as their spiritual children, again reflecting their understanding that the Church is our mother and our family.
And in this, the first Christians understood Mary to be the perfect symbol of the Church’s spiritual motherhood.
It is a beautiful mystery to reflect on — that God’s plan for the world’s redemption begins in the womb of a mother. Mary’s work of love, her “yes” to God’s call, brings the living God into the world in Jesus.
St. Augustine said: “Our Mother the Church is the holy and glorious Mother, who is like Mary, who is both virgin and mother, who gives birth to Christ — and you are Christ’s members.”
The great doctor of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen, called Mary “the people’s mother.”
It is important that we are rediscovering these ideas in this time when the idea of the human person is being lost — when the meaning of the family and the roles of mothers and fathers are being broken down by “depersonalizing” forces in our society.
The image of Mary as the mother of the Church helps us to see that the family is essential to God’s plan for creation. It also helps us to see our own importance — every one of us — in the loving eyes of God.
Jesus was born as a Son of Man in Mary’s womb, and through her and through the Church, God intends each of us to be formed as the unique sons and daughters that he created us to be.
This idea that every one of us is loved by God and willed by God — that he made us because he wants us to live with him as his children — is revolutionary.
If we believed this truth and really lived it, we could change the world. And that is what God expects from each one of us — to help him gather all people into his family and to change this world to be his kingdom.
That is why I believe this new memorial is prophetic. To know that Mary is the mother of the Church is to begin to understand the depths of God’s love for us.
On the cross, Jesus gave Mary to be our mother. In fact, his final words were: “Behold, your mother.” He spoke those words to St. John. And the Gospel tells us that “from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.”
As disciples, we are called to take Mary into our homes — and into our lives and into our hearts.
That is why, when we celebrate this new feast on Monday, May 21, I will be offering a special gift through Angelus News.
I will be personally blessing and offering an image of our Blessed Mother for every family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who wants one.
There should be an image of Mary in every home, a picture of our mother! My prayer is that families and individuals will place this image in a prominent place, and when they look at it they will remember to pray and make an act of love to our mother.
As Christians have in every age, today we all need to turn to Mary for her intercession and her motherly help. We need to learn to love her as a mother and to ask her to teach us to live as she did — with the same beautiful freedom and joy in following Jesus and serving God’s plan for our lives.
Visit AngelusNews.com for information about how to receive this gift for your families.
Pray for me this week and I will be praying for you. And as we remember Mother’s Day this weekend, let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to be a mother to us and turn all of us to have a new love for her and for Jesus and for our mother the Church.