With Mary, my Mother
by Fr. Jack McArdle
My child, you are very precious to me. While I walked the earth, I wasn't at all fully aware of what God's plan was for me, for you, for the world. The only thing of which I was absolutely certain was that there was nothing I myself could do to change the world, or the human condition. For his own purposes, God chose me to be a channel of his grace, of his peace, of his person. I have never thought it necessary that I should question that, doubt that, or even try to understand that. At the beginning, of course, I asked some questions...."How can this happen?......Why did you did this to us?", but it was revealed to me that, while I might ask the questions, I did not need to know the answers. My role was to be, to be still, to open my hands and my heart, and let God be God. I sometimes thought that God had chosen me simply because he could have chosen anyone. I have no doubt that God could have chosen anyone, and I now simply accept the fact that he chose me. I was given the great grace of being able to live with mystery. Life is a mystery to be lived, and I was always conscious of the on-going revelation of that mystery. In simple language, I didn't know, and never needed to know what God would do next, or what would be asked of me. I never saw that as necessary. I was given the grace to be available, and leave all the decisions to God. I felt that my role was to be an instrument, and I was freed from the need to understand all that that meant. I had no reason whatever to doubt that God knew what he was doing, and that is all that mattered to me. I rejoiced in the privilege, while being free from concern about the outcome. The only choice I had, and the only decision I made was to say yes, and then trust that the promises of the Lord would be fulfilled in me. If the the Holy Spirit was to come upon me, and the power of the Most High was to over-shadow me, then I saw no reason for any worry or concern on my part.
My life with Jesus was one continuous revelation. I lived in my heart, and I pondered the words and the events there. As a human being, I do not believe that I could live a mystery up in my head. All of what was happening was too vast for me to comprehend, so I could just watch and pray. My faith wasn't always some sort of blind faith, because it would not be possible in live in the continuous presence of God, and not see glimpses of divinity. It was a response to some deep awareness of the divine presence that prompted me, at Cana, to ask for a miracle. It was many years before when I was told that "nothing is impossible to God". I had always believed that, but it was then that I acted on it, and I was not at all surprised at the miracle. In my daily living, I considered my life as one constant miracle. If God could do what he had done with me, I had no reason to doubt that he could do anything with anybody, or anything else. Because my life involved constant insight and revelation, I had come to expect the signs of God's presence, and the results of that presence. I tried not to get in the way, to do God's work for him, or to set limits to what he could do through and with me. So many times, in your own life, for example, the only limitations of what God can do in you, through you, and for you, are the limitations that are set by you.
My earlier life had been spent in the environs of the Temple, so I was used to the presence of the Holy of Holies. I was familiar with sacrifices, as blood-offerings for the forgivenes of sin. I was familiar with the concept of the lamb of sacrifice, and, the more I listened to Jesus, the more aware I was that he, in his own person, was the Lamb who had come to clear the debt and the divisions that alienated people from God. I thought of him as having one hand in the hand of the Father, and the other hand held out to all of the children of God. As a mother, my heart was pierced when I saw both hands nailed to a cross, and my dearly beloved Son suspended between heaven and earth. This is where my journey of faith was also a journey of great pain and suffering. Because of the nature of events, I knew Jesus through and through. I knew his extraordinary love, his unbounded zeal, his immense compassion. I knew his deep commitment to the mission on which he had come, and his single-minded determination to bring that mission to its completion. Unlike Peter, I never tried to persuade him, or to deter him from doing what he had come to do. Somewhere within myself I had a clear premonition of where all this would lead. With each day I pondered on the promises, and at each stage of the journey I just whispered my yes. I would be there for him, wherever that would lead, and I was there with him on Calvary. On that hill I saw much more than my Son dying. I saw the extraordinary strength, depth, and scope of his love. I saw the ugliness of sin, and the extremes my Son went to in order to nail sin to the cross. He became sin, as it were, and he hung on that cross on behalf of, and in the place of every sinner, and of every sin that was ever committed. Deep within my spirit, which was pierced with anguish, I pondered on what I witnessed, as the earth went dark, the graves were opened, the dead arose and appeared to many. It was no surprise to me to learn that the veil of the Temple was rent in two. Surely such a supreme sacrifice must have made it possible for all of God's children to enter the Holy of Holies, to come directly into the presence of God, without fear of condemnation. On Calvary I witnessed the greatest event that ever happened on this earth since the creation, and the Fall. I never felt within myself any need to understand what was happening. I had long since come to know my place before God, and I was present, I said my yes, and I pondered in my heart all that had happened up till now. On Calvary, I just had to cling to faith in the darkness of that moment, and trust, and trust again that all would be well, whatever happened. I was aware of the evil in the air. I was aware that the evil one had marshalled all his forces to destroy the one person on this earth who could overcome the evil, and undo the harm of the lie that was told in the Garden. I had witnessed the attacks of Satan in many other ways, and I was fully aware that my Son had complete authority over him. On this occasion, however, evil was being seen to triumph, and that was something I was absolutely certain could not happen. I didn't know how the situation was going to be reversed, but, as I said already, I never saw it as my role to know or to understand. For me, faith always meant moving forward in trust, and letting time confirm that what I did was right. Faith was always something more tangible and more real than just belief. Faith came from what I experienced or witnessed myself, rather from some personal opinion. If Jesus said it, I accepted and believed it, and that was always enough for me. That is why, my child, that it is so certrally important, no matter how bad things may seem, no matter how much one may fail, or no matter how victorious evil is seen to be, the only real sin for a Christian is to lose hope, and not believe that all will be well, that evil will eventually be destroyed, that goodness will have the final and eternal triumph.
I was not at all surprised, then, when I met Jesus on Easter Sunday morning. It was not for me to know how this could happen. All I had was his word that he would rise again, and my own heartfelt belief that evil, even if seen to be triumphant for a while, can never overcome goodness. It was a joyful reunion. On Calvary, I understood that he wished to involve me even more in the proclaiming and building of his kingdom. The apostle John, whom Jesus entrusted to my care with his last breath, represented to me all of God's children. On that Easter morning I could clearly see what my role would be. Jesus had spoken many times about returning to the Father, and sending the Holy Spirit to complete his work, and, somehow, I felt that this is where I would come in. That Spirit had been with me all my life, and, in a more special way, at the most significant moments. I was well aware just how weak and how human the apostles were. Despite everything Jesus had said, despite every miracle they saw him work, despite all the time they had spent with him, when the crunch came, they sold him, denied him, or deserted him. I knew that even his risen presence among them would not be enough to change their basic insecurities, or allay their inner fears. Because of my own personal experience of the power, presence, and effect of God's Spirit in my own life, I knew they needed a total change of heart, a complete re-creating process, and that is what happened at Pentecost.
The Upper Room was a very joyful experience for me. I had held Jesus in my arms as a baby, and as a corpse. I now knew that, once the Spirit came, and the Body of Christ was made present among us again, that I would be directly involved in the process. At heart, the apostles were good decent human beings. At the last Supper Jesus had called them his friends, and they were certainly my friends. My best help for them at this juncture was to assure them again and again, that, yes, the Spirit would come. I'm not sure they all believed that as the days passed! All I could give them was my own unshakeable trust that Jesus would keep his promise, and that helped them endure the waiting. We prayed together, and I was able to help them to join their hearts and their minds in the prayer, so that we did actually pray with one mind and one heart. We got to a stage where, I suppose you could say that the Spirit came because he was expected to come! As the days past by, the apostles' hopes were rekindled, and their hurts were healed. They were thrilled to meet Jesus again at Easter, but, then he left them again, and many of their fears resurfaced. They had all suffered their own hurts along the way, even if most were of their own making. Pentecost was like a whole new creation. It was as if the snows had melted, the darkness was gone, and all of nature was in full bloom again. I sang my Magnificat many times over as I saw the transformation that came about in them. They were changed utterly, and it was a foretaste of heaven to see the light in their eyes and the glow on their faces. The final stage of the mission of salvation could now begin. The Spirit had come, and, just as I was asked to provide the body at the beginning, they now would provide the body, the hands, the feet, and the voice, to proclaim that Good News. They went forth to witness to the Good News of Jesus, to proclaim his salvation, and to exercise the power that had been entrusted to them. My own journey was now complete, and I longed with each breath to rejoining Jesus in the New Jerusalem.
How do I explain my role in your life? Where do I begin? As the Spirit was present at all the significant births in the history of the world, from Creation, to Incarnation, to Pentecost, so must he now effect a whole new birth in you. Jesus entrusted you to me as a very precious child, whom I now love just as much as I have ever loved him. Like any mother, I care for all my children, and I want what is best for all. I want nothing less for you than the blessings I myself received when the Spirit of God came upon me, and the power of the Most High overshadowed me. I want to take up residence in your heart, so that you too can have your own Bethlehem, your own Pentecost. I want to embrace you, to hold you, and to bring you into full membership of the family of God. I want to share my faith with you, and I want to pray with you, for you, and in you. Like any mother, I want to teach you the basics of walking, of talking, and of living by the power of the Spirit. As the caretaker of your heart, I want to turn to Jesus, just as I did at Cana, and obtain the miracle you need at any one time. I want to be part of your journey, and my greatest longing is to have all my children back safely home again. I want to protect you from the evil one who declared war on all of my children. I have been given the power to crush his head, and he has no power over those upon whom I cast my mantle. Incarnation, salvation, and redemption is on-going, and it must happen within the heart of each person on this earth. Like that first Christmas night, there are still many hearts and homes closed, and unwelcoming. My heart is one with the heart of Jesus, and I rejoice with him when any one of his children turns or returns to him. I share in all the heavenly rejoicing when the door of another heart is open, so that I can witness yet again all the signs and wonders that I lived with as I walked this earth. Like Jesus, I, too, stand at the door and knock.........
Mary, my dear dear Mother, thank you, thank you. It's wonderful to think and to know that you're there. Within all of us is the Inner Child, always in need of a mother. Depite all the bravado, and the 'grown-up' behaviour, I know that you see the child within. What amazes me is the possibility that you see that child, which is me, exactly as saw your son Jesus. It is not easy for my mind to comprehend the fact that you are my mother, every bit as much as you are his. I grasp at the possibility that Jesus had you in mind when he asked us to become like litle children. I know, of course, that he was also referring to the Father, but he certainly wasn't inviting us into a one-parent family. Putting you into the formula changes things completely. You were the human instrument used by God to make Incarnation possible. You were the one chosen to provide the body, and the humanity, which God would take on, in which he would live, and through which he would effect our redemption. In other words, you were the one opening in the whole jungle of humanity where God was free to enter, and in whom he could make his home. Because of freewill, the rest of humanity could close the door, and even God could not, or would not enter. If there was to be a whole new humanity created, then you were chosen to have a part in that creation, in that re-creation, in that redemption. You are not God, you are not Redeemer, you are not divine; nor did you ever claim to be anything other than a simple servant, who was available to do whatever God asked of you. You were very central, essential, and necessary, though, if God were to come among us, to assume our human nature, and undo all the evils that had entered his original creation. I have no doubt that God could have chosen any other way of doing things, or any other person as his instrument, and that, in his infinite wisdom, he deliberately selected you. Jesus would be the new Adam, and you would be the new Eve, and, this time, it would go strictly according to the will of God. Things would be done God's way, we would know our proper place before God, and we could live and share in the very life of God. The final and definitive march back into the Promised Land had begun, for those who choose to follow. The whole three Persons of the Trinity would be involved, and, in a very unique way, you yourself would be personally involved by them in every step of the journey. You represented the good wheat the farmer sowed. You were still good wheat, while being surrounded by the weeds of sin, sickness, and death on every side. When I was growing up, I was familiar with seeing a scare-crow out in the middle of a field of wheat. No, I don't think of you as a scare-crow! Rather I think of you as Ruth in the wheat fields as recorded in the Old Testament. In simple language, you stick out among the weeds; the constrast is stark and clear. You escaped the contamination, the virus, the evil, and you truly were our human nature's solitary boast.
The Father chose you, you accepted, with open heart, the outpouring of the Spirit, and the Word, Jesus, assumed human nature through you. Because he is God, Jesus could assume the whole of humanity within himself, and the results of whatever he would do with that, would be made available to anyone who chooses to accept it. In this re-creation, you became Mother of the new Creation. Once I accept Jesus as my personal Saviour, as the one who has come to bring me safely back to the Father, then, by that very fact, I enter into all of what we call the New Covenant, the new and eternal agreement offered to us who are wandering through the desert of life. When I say YES to that, I accept God as Father, Jesus as Moses, the Spirit as the Power to walk in the path of Jesus, and you as the mother, who holds my hand along the way. I love nature programmes on the telly. It never ceases to amaze me to watch the mother-instinct at work, even among the most primitive of creatures. I love watching how the young are protected, fed, and reared. This scene becomes more remarkable when it involves a baby elephant, a baby giraffe, or a baby ostrich. The mother is so huge compared to the new-born, and yet the little one is at the very centre of her attention. This does not reflect how I think of me travelling along with you! There is a vast difference here, and this is because of you. I am, indeed, the weak, wobbly, wandering one; but you, because of your extraordinary humility, are able to be with me as I am, and I don't at all feel over-powered in your presence. In my present existence, I have a sense of now-but-not-yet, of being on the way, in process, in a state of gestation, awaiting something beyond my wildest dreams. At times, I think of you carrying me in your womb; at other times, you are living as care-taker of my heart, and, at other times, you are walking beside me, holding my hand. In some mysterious way, I'm sure, it often involves all three at any one time. Whatever it is, there is one thing I ask :Please keep me very very close to you. Don't let me out of your sight, and continue to bring me closer and closer to Jesus, so that I can become more and more like him.
There are so many graces I need, that I wouldn't know where to start! The one that comes to mind at the moment, as being of primary importance, would be to know my place before God. You magnified the Lord, and your God was so omnipotent and magnificant, that you, yourself, felt like a tiny grain of sand in his presence. Because you clearly knew your place before God, you were fully open to miracle. You had no problem with the words "Nothing is impossible with God". When the angel brought you God's request, and you were assured that all of this would happen because the Holy Spirit would come upon you, and the power of the Most High would overshadow you, you had no problem whatever with saying YES. There were two things of which you were certain : You could do nothing, and God could do anything. I believe this as proof that you were totally preserved from the lies of Satan, from the effects of original sin. For you, those two certainties were so obvious, but, because of original sin, we have some sort of blindness of spirit that prevents us seeing things as they really are. There are times when I get a little glimpse or insight into what you always saw so clearly. Please. please, pray for me, that my realisation of this truth might continue to grow. If I knew my place before God, I could be as I really am, without need or nudge to pretend, to impress, or to be anything other than who and what I am, before God, and before people. I would discontinue all attempts at playing God, or of doing all those many many things that only God can do. I would stand back, and let He that is mighty do great things for me. Like John the Baptist, as I begin to decrease, God can continue to increase, and miracles becomes events that I witness and depend on, rather than something I vaguely hope for. When I think of Cana of Galilee, I can understand how that first miracle came about. You saw the problem. You could do nothing about it. But you knew that Jesus had access to the power of God, and, therefore, there was no reason why there should not be a miracle. Your faith was simple, trusting, and totally uncomplicated, and it had nothing of the arrogant, the demanding, or the manipulative about it. What a wonderful gift! I ask you, please. to go to Jesus on my behalf. My faith is like water, and I don't have any wine..........
I think of you as a person of the heart. You were never a heady person, trying to figure out, to analyse, or to understand. You heard the word, and you pondered that word in your heart. Your heart was an Upper Room, a Prayer Room, a Pentecost Place, and, when you heard a word from God, you took that word to your heart, pondering on what it might mean. This was at the very centre of your prayer and your praying. The word of God was continually becoming flesh in and through you. That is why I need you as caretaker of my heart. I invite you, please, to take up residence there, to make my heart your home, to obtain and supervise the on-going miracle of Incarnation within me, so that the Word of God, Jesus, might be formed within me. I think of you in my heart as you were when the Spirit came upon you in Nazareth, or at Pentecost. I make my heart available for that on-going, endless, creative action of God's Spirit, until the work of Redemption is completed within me. Of myself, I have everything that can block, mess up, oppose, and prevent everything that Jesus came to do. I think of his grace building on my human nature, rather than replacing it. Therefore, the original problem, the original sin, the strong impulse to be God, and to play God, is still there. Like any child, I need someone to trust, someone I can depend on, someone who is there for me. That is how I see you, and how I think of you. This does not exclude Jesus, his Father, or the Spirit, of course. I think of you in a different way. You were 100% human, and you did perfectly everything that I am struggling to do. Whereas Jesus, as God, came down among us, you came from among us. To me it may be very far-fetched, but, I'm sure, to you, it is acceptable : If God had a YES from me, like he had from you, he could do the very same things through me. In fact, I think of that as being my very calling, despite all the obstacles I find, or I place in the way. Because you are my mother, and you have a mother's heart, I can tell you just how much I would love to be open to God, and I know you will understand. In human language, and with human reasoning, my ideas are crazy, I know, but I also know that nothing is impossible with God. I trust you, please, to help me along the way, to pray for me, with me, and in me, so that, at least, I may move in the right direction. I have no reason to trust myself. When I began school, or when I first went to a dentist, my mother came with me, and that made all the difference. I constantly need that awareness of accompaniment. It scares me to think of myself wandering on my own, depending on my own instincts, to guide me in the right direction.
As caretaker of my heart, I look to you to supervise, and provide the conditions for Pentecost to take place there. I can identify with the Apostles as you all gathered in that Upper Room. They were a broken bunch. Despite all they had heard and seen, when the crunch came, they ran, they denied, they failed miserably. I myself could honestly feel very much at home among them! They needed your strength, they needed your faith. Jesus promised to send the Spirit, and so the Spirit would certainly come. I could imagine you saying that to them again and again. Like Peter or Thomas, I, too, can easily become restless when I'm waiting for something to happen! You, however, could assure and reassure them that, even in the waiting, there is always something happening. The journey itself is part of the arriving ; the foundations must be laid before the house can be built. From your perspective of God, I feel that waiting was a real expression of your faith. For the poor among us, waiting is part of everyday living......waiting in line for food, for money, for hand-outs, for help. The wealthy never have to queue for anything. You were poor, totally poor in spirit, and waiting for God was an expression of your faith. The important thing, though, and the one that makes all the difference, is that you lived with expectation, with constant hope. Even at the lowest point, as on Calvary, you lived with the belief that all would be well, whenever and however God decided. You were led by the Spirit, and you never ran ahead of God into all the worries and questions about to-morrow. I think of you as quietly repeating your YES each and every moment, with each and every development.
Mary, Mother, there are times when I feel embarrassed as I stand before you. As I was growing up it was important to me that my mother be pleased with me, and even proud of me. When she did die, I remember thinking "Now she really knows what I'm really like!" I know, of course, that her love didn't change, and her view of everything would have changed fundamentally, as she shared fully in the compassion and understanding that is part of how God sees us. When I stand before you, however, I know, right now, that you know me through and through, and, because of the mother-love in your heart, you want everything that's best for me. I don't at all feel condemned in your presence, but I often get a certain sense of letting you down, and failing to avail of, and to make use of the many many graces offered to me by Jesus. I imagine, if I were sitting speaking with you, that you would speak with such love and conviction about how much the Lord needs our availability and co-operation, and what wonders the Spirit can do in the hearts and lives of those who are open to his presence and his power. All I can do is continue to offer myself, continue to make myself available, continue to reach out for your hand, by way of assurance, and continue to hope that all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.
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It's Me Again, Lord... copyright © 2004 Fr. Jack McArdle. All rights reserved.