Many people, Catholics included, struggle with Mary’s role in the Christian faith. “She’s not that important!”, “I have Jesus, why do I need Mary?” and “You Catholics are a bunch of Mary-worshippers!” are some of the sentiments that are expressed rather frequently. As a Cradle Catholic, I never had a problem with the Blessed Mother and accepted her being a part of my faith. As I started to embrace my Catholicism more deeply, however, my confusion about Mary grew. What exactly is her role? Am I supposed to pray to Mary, Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit, or all of the above? I asked myself what I could do to help understand Mary’s role in my life. Over time, I came to the conclusion that one of the best ways to understand and appreciate the role of the Blessed Mother is to take her out of the Bible and see what we have left. What I discovered, and I hope you will as well, is that removing Mary from Scripture will leave gaping holes in our Catholic Faith and will help us to better appreciate her importance in our lives.
Let’s start by removing Mary from the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38), when the angel Gabriel asked her to become the mother of the Savior. For starters, we wouldn’t have her great example of humility when the angel exclaimed, “Hail, full of grace”. The fact that Mary was “greatly troubled” by this is a profound example of what it means to be humble. My reaction would have probably been something like, “Thanks, Gabe… you know I try pretty hard. Now, what can I do for you?”. By looking at Mary’s reaction, we are reminded of how often we feel a little too proud about our good works. We forget that anything good in us is due to God’s grace. Continuing on, how about Mary’s response to the shocking and mysterious mission of becoming the mother of the Savior? Oh, I forgot, Gabriel did provide the details…”The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35). Crystal clear, right? Mary is engaged to Joseph and has just been told that she will become pregnant with the Savior of the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. Her response? “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38) Are you kidding me? Who has faith like that? Mary does, and if you take her out of that scene, you also take away the example that motivates and guides me every day of my life. Mary had the ability to trust God even when it didn’t make sense. That’s the kind of example that I need! Oh, I almost forgot, if Mary isn’t there to say “yes” to God’s request (as delivered by the angel), we might still be waiting for Our Savior. That means, if you or I died today, we could have to wait thousands of years before the gates of Heaven were opened by Jesus. Because Mary did exist and did say ”yes”, however, we can die today and potentially go directly to Heaven. That’s a comforting thought!
Let’s move on to the wedding at Cana (Jn 2:1-11). In his narrative of this event, St. John highlights the fact that “the mother of Jesus was there” and then adds that “Jesus was also invited to the marriage, with His disciples”. Why did he give Mary “top billing”? Surely, Jesus is the star of this show, isn’t He? In order to find out, let’s remove Mary and see what happens. If Mary was not in attendance, Jesus and His disciples would still be there and the wine would still run out. Since Mary was the one that informed Jesus that “they have no wine”, we can’t assume that someone else would bring it to His attention. More importantly, we would lose one of the most powerful and effective examples of intercessory prayer ever recorded. Through this simple example, we are reminded that Our Blessed Mother is watching over us and is always ready to present our needs directly to her Son. As in this case, she often does this without even being asked. Following this, in her last recorded words in Sacred Scripture, Mary gives us advice that (if followed) is guaranteed to get us to Heaven…”Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2: 5). Finally, at the request of Mary, Jesus performs His first miracle. The water is turned into wine (not just any wine, but even better wine!) and the day is saved. If we take Mary out of the story we have no example of intercessory prayer, no command to follow Jesus’ teachings and quite possibly no first miracle. That’s a big void, wouldn’t you agree?
Finally, let’s journey to that fateful day on Calvary when Our Lord gave His life for our salvation (Jn 18-19). Sadly, just about all of Jesus’ disciples deserted Him in His hour of need. Mary, however, was there “standing by the Cross of Jesus” (Jn 19:25). How’s that for an example of being a follower of Christ, even when it’s difficult? Mary’s constancy inspires us to persevere in our faith, even when we encounter suffering and difficulties. By taking her out of this scene, there goes one of best examples of faith that you’ll ever see. Continuing on, in one of His final acts before dying on the Cross, Jesus addressed His mother by saying, “Woman, behold your son” (Jn 19:26). Turning to St. John, Our Lord exclaimed, “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:27). Can you imagine the effort it must have taken for Our Lord to say these words while nailed to a cross? Was it just some meaningless chatter thrown in by John to pad the story a bit? Hardly! It has always been the teaching of the Church that John represents ALL beloved disciples, thereby allowing us to share in the gift of Mary as our mother. No Mary, no Heavenly mother for us. Considering all that our Blessed Mother does to help us get closer to Christ, that would be a BIG loss!
There are other examples in the Bible that allow us to see the importance of Mary’s role in the life of a Catholic. Removing her from the Visitation (Lk 1:39-56), the birth of Jesus (Lk 2:1-20), the Presentation in the temple (Lk 2:22-38) or praying with the Apostles (Acts 1:14) helps to illustrate her importance. Thankfully, we did AND DO have Mary. She is our mother and mediatrix and, because of her cooperation, Our Savior came into the world. If she doesn’t play a big part in your spiritual life, I urge to open the Bible to all of Mary’s appearances, pretend she wasn’t there, and meditate on what’s missing. I’m sure you’ll discover that “what’s missing” is the person that you need to help you grow closer to Jesus…Our Blessed Mother, Mary!