Mary, Mother of Jesus

Today the Church celebrates the obligatory Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so the sequential readings are set aside so that we can hear in the Gospel something about the Heart of Mary. The verses that have always struck me to the heart and refocused my attention are repeated in two places in the second chapter of Luke: And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart (Luke 2:19); And his mother kept all these things in her heart (Luke 2:51).

She knew how to “BE WITH” events and circumstances and to know God in them, which is something that can only be done if we are open to the Spirit in our lives. We often see the events and circumstances and people in our lives as hurdles to overcome, tasks to be checked off, goals to reach. But if we open our hearts to the influence of the Holy Spirit, these things can reveal to us the will of God, and the gifts He is pouring over us. This is what Mary did.

But Mary sometimes gets a bit sidelined; we’re not sure what to make of all this, so we can sometimes reduce her to a kind of sweet “conduit” through which Jesus appeared on earth for us.

This would be to misunderstand the nature of motherhood in general and of this motherhood in particular – the mother-child relationship can never be reduced to mere passing “functionality.” We don’t give birth and then a child has no need for us! And in this particular case, it would be ridiculous to think that God would use a person and then minimize the role that person would play in the rest of the story.

Christ did not fall to earth, ready-made and complete. He, too, required loving and nurturing and instructing. Christ is the seed of the Word, planted by the Father and the Spirit in the womb of the Virgin of Nazareth; and Mary is the fertile earth that nourished and gave growth to that Seed so that we may eventually eat the fruit of the Tree of the Cross, the Eucharist. The Flesh that feeds us was formed under the Heart of Mary. The Blood that we receive from the altar first flowed through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Mary was made for this, and she cannot ever be anyone other than the Mother of God; everything before the angel Gabriel came to her prepared her for this role and there is no point at which she is not the Mother of God. Mary did not stop being the Mother of God once Jesus was born, or once he came of age, or when he left her to preach, or when he died on the Cross, or rose and ascended into Heaven. She is Christ’s mother and – because we are members of his Body through baptism – she is our mother too.

In her fiat at the outset of the work of redemption, she is both accepting God’s gift of redemption for herself and prefiguring/making possible the act of faith of the whole church yet to come. She speaks her YES on behalf of all of humanity, as the new creation begins in her womb.

In fact, “Mary, Mother of God” underlies the whole mystery of our redemption; from the Son’s conception in her womb by the overshadowing Holy Spirit to our own conception in the womb of Mother Church “until Christ be fully formed in us,” Mary is part of our salvation. And the Scriptures tell us that this is because of her great faith: blessed are you because you believed (Luke 1:45). Mary’s deepest identity is believer: one who encountered the Word of God, accepted it, assented to it, and never wavered, all the way to the cross and beyond.

There is nothing that Mary does without its being undertaken under the impulse of that original and ever-active grace of the Spirit that filled her from the beginning. This grace that filled Mary drove her in haste to the hill country of Judah to help her cousin Elizabeth, and also made her sensitive to the needs of the family hosting the wedding feast in Cana; we see in these events Mary’s essential role as Christ-Bearer and ready intercessor, who comes to our aid even without our asking! She is, in a sublime and motherly way, attentive to our needs.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary is the example for us of complete receptivity to the Word and a ready YES to every breath, every movement of the Holy Spirit. Let us allow her to mother us into the arms of her Son, Jesus, and into eternity with him.


Kathryn is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at www.kathryntherese.com or on Facebook @summapax.


God Delights in Me

Sometimes, the “key” to the Mass readings is found in the Antiphons. Today’s Entrance Antiphon invites us to see and receive our chosenness: “The Lord became my protector. He brought me out to a place of freedom; he saved me because he delighted in me.”

“Delight” is not the word that comes to mind when I consider how others – or God Himself – see me. Do we believe that God “delights” in us? Much of the time, I only see my faults and failings, and I don’t like myself too much. But God still delights in me, or at least in who He created me to be (and I am still in the process of becoming). When we know deeply that God delights in us, that He has saved us, that we have been “born anew” through His Word, we learn to stop grasping for more than we are meant to have. We are content with being loved by Love and we can at last begin to seek ways to love in return.

In today’s Gospel, it is clear that the disciples still do not understand Jesus’ mission of love, even as he takes the Twelve aside to tell them that he will be handed over and condemned to death, mocked, spit upon, scourged, and executed! After this explication of what is about to happen, James and John still come to him to ask for a share in his glory.

What glory? We can assume they were not referring to eternal glory; they still believed, somehow, that Jesus would overthrow the oppression of Israel and establish his rule on earth, and they were close enough to the Master to suggest to him that they should sit right next to him when he took his throne.

Jesus points out to them that they do not know what they are asking. And the other ten apostles become indignant at the request of James and John, concerned that they are being out-maneuvered, left out of the glory, somehow at risk for being given less authority and recognition! As he had done so many times before, Jesus patiently explained that the truth is the exact opposite of what the world values: authority, position, and glory are not found in the power to rule over others but rather in the humble love that serves others like a slave: “Whoever whishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” And he holds himself up as the model when he points out that he did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom.

This lesson must have sunk in deeply and become indispensable “Gospel Grammar,” as St. Peter writes in today’s first reading about our being ransomed with the precious Blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18). Christ poured himself out for us completely, holding nothing back, so that we who were prisoners to sin and darkness might be bought back from the futile ways we learn from the world. The disciples learned this lesson as they walked with Christ and watched him hand himself over to death.

Are we still learning this lesson? Are we still acting according to the futile conduct the world insists will bring us happiness? How far are we on the path to becoming full citizens of the Kingdom of God, surrendering to God who surrenders Himself to us? Are we afraid to put ourselves in service to the Kingdom? Christ is the model to which we must conform our lives: we must be willing to become Bread for the world, to be a libation that is poured out completely for the sake of others.

This does not come naturally to any of us. Self-gift is made possible when we let go of the idea that we need to earn God’s love. And we are impelled to pour ourselves out by the presence of the Spirit and Fire of Jesus within us, which we are given at Baptism and Confirmation.

Finally, we are conformed to the image of the Son when we know with certainty that God saves us because He lovingly delights in us, and we live within the horizons of this unearned dignity.


Kathryn is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at www.kathryntherese.com or on Facebook @summapax


Like Children Before God

What kind of man is this, who speaks with authority yet is so approachable that the young mothers and children come near to be touched and blessed by him? This is no stern and critical Rabbi, judging and joyless! In this Gospel, we can easily share the view of those who watched him and listened to him speak the Good News: Jesus must surely attract with his joy and sincerity, tenderness and mighty calm, kindness and self-giving love.

These children and their mothers are confident Jesus will receive them, even as the disciples are rebuking them and shooing them away, no doubt trying to protect the Master from those who seem to them no more than a nuisance.  In contrast, Jesus does not rebuke those who swarm him to be touched, but becomes indignant and rebukes the disciples for trying to prevent them, because his heart is moved by their innocent eagerness to draw near. Jesus wants to embrace them and bless them!

Jesus then opens the activity of this moment to teach a profound lesson: “the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” This must have surprised the disciples. The religious leaders they knew were nothing like children! They were rather decidedly not childlike – Jesus himself said they were full of greed and self-indulgence (Mt 23:25-6); they were like “whitewashed tombs…full of dead men’s bones” (Mt 23:27-8); cut from the same cloth as those who murdered the prophets of old (Mt 23:29). This is far from childlike.

What could Jesus have meant by telling the disciples that “whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it”? What does it mean to be childlike in regard to God? We must distinguish between childlikeness and childishness: the childish refuse to grow up; the childlike mature and yet retain – or return to – the attitude of a child before a loving Father: trust, wonder, joy, love.

Childlikeness is the trust that we reach beyond the limit of our self-reliance and self-assertion; it is the ability to wonder that is found beyond our demand for proof and explanation; it is the joy that is experienced when we let go of the questions and fears that hold us captive within the confines of our own skulls; it is the love we give freely beyond conditions and reasonings.

The children are drawn to him. The young mothers trust him with the children they love. And Jesus always touches and embraces and blesses those who are open to his presence in their lives.

“The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these”: those whose hearts are transformed to be like the Son’s own Heart by drawing near to him so that they are full of childlike joy and wonder and trust in the Father’s never-failing love and mercy. It is this loving trust and openness that frees us to accept the Kingdom of God.


Kathryn Mulderink is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at www.kathryntherese.com or on Facebook @summapax .