By Emily Mendez
Connecting Faith and Life
For a long time, I have responded to my children when they whine that something is “hard” by saying, “You can do hard things!” I hope they will see themselves as capable of sticking with something that is hard and not giving up at the first sign of struggle. One day, a few years ago, I was trying to buckle my preschooler into his car seat and the buckles were not cooperating. I said, frustrated, “Why is this so hard?” Without missing a beat, my son said, “Mommy, you can do hard things!” I never saw that comment coming. They were my exact words served back to me. This happens frequently as parents. We probably all know a son or daughter that sounds just like their parents. There is a bond unlike any other between parent and child. This is true for Jesus, too, since He was fully human. At the beginning of January, we celebrated the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Mary was a true mother (in Latin, genetrix) bearing Jesus in her own flesh, giving birth to him, likely nursing him at her breast, and teaching him all the things from talking to walking to how to tie his sandals. She made him breakfast, put him to bed at night, and checked on how he was doing in his studies. It is interesting to think about toddler Jesus and school-aged Jesus and what life may have been like. There is a deep bond between mother and son. Mary and Jesus are not the exception but the full expression of it.
When the Church declared at the Council of Ephesus in 431 that Mary is the Theotokos, the “God-bearer,” the Mother of God, the council was really clarifying questions about Jesus. Was he part-man, part-God? Was he God and just looked human? Did he leave behind his divinity when he took on flesh? Was he fully God and fully man? How can we understand the eternal Son of God who chose to assume humanity in the confines of time and space and is he really still God himself? The council was responding to the teaching of Nestorius and his Christological heresy that Christ was two separate persons and only the human person was in Mary’s womb, was born, and suffered and died on the cross. Nestorius rejected the title “Mother of God” for “Mother of Jesus.” The council declared the hypostatic union of Jesus’ human nature and divine nature in one person, fully human and fully divine. This means Mary is indeed the “Mother of God.”
The title, Mary, Mother of God, tells us a lot about Jesus and Mary theologically, but when we contemplate the richness of the relationship, we see a deeper reality – a true mother and son. There are three conversations between Jesus and Mary recorded in Scripture: the finding of Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52), the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12), and Mary standing at the foot of the cross (John 19:25-27). In these passages, it is evident that they have a unique relationship and an incredible bond as mother and son. This bond is worth contemplating. What must it have been like for Mary to form Jesus in his youth and to walk with him so closely throughout his life as a true mother? Contemplation of their relationship can lead us to a deeper experience of the Incarnation. It shows the radical gift of the eternal Son of God to assume humanity and be born as a baby entrusted to a humble young woman. God could have chosen any way to redeem humanity, but God chose this. It is so humble. What a radical way to bring about our salvation! Jesus entered into our humanity to free us from sin and death, to destroy Satan, to heal our brokenness, and to bring us to fullness of life. I don’t think Mary ever buckled Jesus into his car seat, but we have a savior who knows what it is like to have a mother and to be a son. From the cross, he gives us Mary as our mother and we can hear her voice say, like in former times, “Do whatever He (Jesus) tells you.”
Emily Mendez is a stay-at-home mom in Jasper, where she lives with her husband and four sons. She has a Master’s degree in Theology. She can be contacted at [email protected].