Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
The problem with Mary
By Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
January 1, 2014

Jesus was one of only two people born in the fullness of God's grace not affected by original sin. The other was Jesus' mother Mary befitting the Mother of God. All other human beings were and are conceived and affected by the original sin of our first parents. It was a promise fulfilled with a new Eve, not yet born, that we would regain God's grace spoken to the old Eve and Adam in Paradise Lost. God had promised the first Eve: "I will put enmity between you ( read Satan) and the woman (read Mary) and between your seed and her seed (read Jesus) and he (Satan) will bruise your head, and you (Mary) shall crush his (read Satan's) head. ( Genesis 3: 15). In a decision made outside of time God sent the archangel Gabriel into time to say, "Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you . . . . And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus," Savior. (Luke 1: 28). Mary was then told by the archangel that her "kinswoman Elizabeth . . . has also conceived a son . . . and Mary said, "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word." Mary, we are told, then "left in haste" to assist Elizabeth who on hearing Mary's greeting said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me, the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (1 Luke 36-43). Mary and Jesus were the only ones exempt from the "wages of sin" whose payment the Apostle Paul said is "death." (Romans 6: 23). Both Mary and Jesus chose, however, to free themselves from this world when Jesus dying on a cross paid the wages of our sins and Mary's assumption into heaven.

The problem with Mary, she was out of place in this world. Even before receiving the invitation from Gabriel Mary had vowed to a life of virginity dedicated to the Lord. I don't think we are capable of fully appreciating Mary's dilemma "full of grace" with all its attendant personal blessings, having chosen a life of virginity for the sake of the kingdom of God then to be thrust into the public life of her Son. She had chosen a life comparable to the lives of a religious women who take the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. Mary also prized the gift of silence. We hear little from her in Scripture, and I am sure the gospel writers would have recorded more of her thoughts had she expressed them. We are told, "she pondered" over the meaning of her becoming the Mother of God. She pondered over what her lost twelve year son was discussing with the teachers in the temple and Jesus' reply to her questions, "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business? After some time had passed and considering the angel's revelation Mary answered Elizabeth's question, "Why . . . the mother of my Lord should come to me?":
    My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. (Luke 2: 41-51).
In her humility she credited her holiness to God, and then specifically enumerated God's "greatness" and "mercy" for those who are fearful of offending Him, for "the lowly" and for "the hungry" and his rejection of the "proud, the conceited, the mighty and the rich." She understood her place in the history of salvation as God's "lowly servant . . . [in] the promise [God] had made to our fathers in faith," to Abraham and passed on to his progeny and the nation God established in the name of Abraham's grandson, Israel, for "Abraham's . . . children for ever." ( Luke 1: 46-55).

Mary's "Magnificat" summed up perfectly the ongoing work of God's salvation – in her humility and abiding grace of the Holy Spirit which "overshadowed her" in a soul unlike any other since the creation of the world. Thirty years later before the beginning of Jesus' public ministry Mary maintained her quiet demeanor with her son when they both attended a wedding in Cana and the groom had run out of wine. Mary simply told Jesus, "They have no wine," letting him decide what he would or would not do while she quietly advised the wedding servers, "Do whatever he asks." (John 2: 1-4). On another occasion when Jesus was teaching he was told his Mother and other relations were asking for him and Jesus replied, "Who is my mother, father and brother?" (Mark 3: 31–35). Mary understood that she was Jesus' disciple first and his mother second. Finally, under the cross Mary and the Apostle John listened to Jesus say, "Woman, here is your Son. Son, here is your Mother." Mary understood, accepted and stood in silence. She had long before come to understand her relationship to Jesus' and Jesus' relationship to his other disciples. (John 19: 26-27).

Aside from her humble bearing Mary had gained great wisdom from Sacred Scripture taught – we can assume, by her saintly parents, Joachim and Anne. Mary understood well the lessons and trials of her forebears such as Hanna's who although infertile prayed to God that God grant her a son whom she would dedicate to his service. She miraculously bore a son named Samuel, the prophet and counselor to the young King David from whom Jesus descended. In gratitude to God for his favor Mary adopted Hanna's prayer when she praised God before her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with the "greatest of the prophets," John the Baptist, whom Jesus recognized and called to his service. "My heart exults in the Lord, my strength is exalted in the Lord,"Mary repeated Hanna's prayer. Perhaps, Mary recognized that her Son, Jesus, would be called the "Son of David" promised by the prophets she had read as a child.

© Fr. Tom Bartolomeo


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Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

I am the founder and director of the Families For Families Retreat House, a refuge for anyone who wants to rethink his or her life in a quiet non-demanding environment in an historic house c.1709 when life was less complicated. I am also and primarily a Catholic priest having been a college and university teacher, business-owner and executive among other things. I received my Bachelor's and Master's degrees in English literature from Saint John's University, Jamaica, New York and completed post-graduate studies at Kansas State University. Contact me at (Fr. Bartolomeo passed away on September 18, 2018. His obituary can be found here.)


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