Summary: We can have confidence in our relationship with God if we imitate the Mother of Jesus.
May 10, 2009
One of the most successful movies of all time was the 1981 blockbuster Raiders of the Lost Ark. In it, swashbuckling adventurers contended in the pre-World War II era for the privilege of finding the Ark of the Covenant, the Old Testament repository of the manna, Aaron’s staff and the tablets of the Law. Like the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant is one of those mystical talismen that has excited imagination for thousands of years.
But the Ark of the Covenant of the New Testament has been identified, and it is not a what, but a who. In the Book of Revelations, John tells us (11:19) that God’s temple in heaven was opened in his vision, and the ark of the covenant was seen there amid flashes of lightning, loud noises, thunder, an earthquake and hail. What is the ark? The very next line answers the question–it is a woman clothed with the son, the moon under her feet, on her head a crown of twelve stars, a woman with child and in labor, whose child is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.
In other words, the Ark of the Covenant is a mother–the mother of Jesus, the mother of God and our mother, Mary. The Ark of the Covenant was supposed to contain the word of God and the Bread of sustenance. Mary was that Ark, Mary was that mother who gave us the Son of God, the Logos, the Word, who is the Bread of life. But Mary was more than a passive container, a box of wood. Mary was an active agent in our redemption. If we look closer into her role in the incarnation and redemption, we can understand more of what God expects of us as His children, and hers.
St. John tells us in today’s Epistle that we have confidence when we contemplate our relationship with God, even though we are weak and sinful. We have confidence and receive what we ask for because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is that we believe in the name of Jesus Christ his Son, and love one another as he did. Moreover, we know that he abides in us–pitches his tent among us as John’s Gospel teaches–because of the Spirit dwelling in us.
That’s dense. But the way to unpack it is to look at the one who first modeled that behavior. And that person, again, was Mary. When the angel appeared to her and revealed that she would be the mother of the Son of God, who would be named Jesus, she believed in Him. And then she showed her love by traveling south to take care of her elderly, pregnant cousin Elizabeth. She first showed her love for all humankind by her fiat–be it done to me according to thy word. She agreeed to be the mother of the Messiah, to be the Ark of the Covenant, and then she went on a mercy mission. Luke tells us the first words Elizabeth said to Mary: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb! And why is it granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? These were the words David uttered hundreds of years before about the Ark of the Covenant.
But note that Mary did not only contain the baby Jesus by her obedience. She embodied the obedience to God that Jesus came to fulfill. The saints have taught for at least five hundred years that Mary participated in all Christ’s mysteries. That’s what the Rosary mysteries teach us. From the Incarnation to the miracle at Cana to the preaching and passion and death and resurrection, the Scriptures and Tradition tell us The mother of Jesus was there. Over and over she said “yes” to the plan of God. Over and over the sword predicted by Simeon pierced her heart, when her Son was chased out of his homeland by Herod, when the innocents were slain, when the townspeople tried to push Him over a cliff at Nazareth, when the Jerusalem in-crowd persecuted and murdered Him. She was there, and she was obedient to God’s will. She cooperated in the wondrous plan of God, she said “thy will be done” right along with her Son, Jesus. And she was rewarded–Tradition teaches us–by being the first to whom Jesus appeared after His resurrection. And her final reward was to participate in the resurrection before anyone else so that she now reigns as Queen Mother beside Her son in heaven.
That’s what can happen when one believes in the name of the Lord Jesus and loves others. That’s what can happen to us, too. And that’s the good news for this Mother’s Day. We can imitate Jesus and Mary by our own obedience in our day and time, in our jobs and leisure and study.