Eternally Connected by the Bond of Love
Mary was there at the foot of the Cross when Jesus died, but when he was lifted up to heaven, 40 days after his Resurrection, the Bible does not record his mother as being physically present (Lk 24:51-52; Acts 1:1-11). One might think that she would want to be there to say farewell, but it is not as simple as that. For one thing, in his Ascension, Jesus did not leave Mary or us. He did not go away, but entered into the transcendence of communion with God. He kept his word to the Apostles, and to us, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).
In his Confessions, Saint Augustine explains: “Our life himself came down into this world and took away our death. He slew it with his own abounding life, and with thunder in his voice he called us from this world to return to him in heaven. . . . He departed from our sight, so that we should turn to our hearts and find him there. He departed, but he is here with us. He would not stay long with us, but he did not leave us. He went back to the place which he had never left.”
What is true for us – that Jesus did not leave us in “ascending” into the intimacy of communion with God, but that we can find him in our hearts by allowing him and his love to enter into our being – was especially true for the Virgin Mother of Jesus, who is joined to him in a special way by her unique maternity, such that when he was nailed to the Cross, her own heart was pierced (cf. Lk 2:35). Indeed, we can relate to this in our personal lives with our own mothers.
The first and most immediate human relationship we experience is with our mothers. Through their cooperation with God, together with our fathers, they give us life. In an ongoing commitment that nurtures the family and provides a context for our life, our mothers devote their time, energy, resources and love so we can grow, develop and mature.
As the saying goes, we are our mothers’ children. We will always be a part of our mothers and our mothers will always be a part of us. Even after we have left the family nest, we can find our mothers present in our hearts. Even after our mother has passed from this world, still we can feel her within us. There is a bond of love that cannot be broken by distance or time or even death. If she is in God and he is in us, then she is in our heart as well, and she continues to be a mother, looking out for us from the Father’s house.
Again, as we not only celebrate Mother’s Day today, but the entire month of May as Mary’s month, what is true in our personal lives is especially true with respect to her, who is Mother not only to Jesus, but to John and all the faithful. When the Apostles returned to Jerusalem, they devoted themselves with one accord to prayer with the Blessed Virgin, who by her maternal charity and prayers implored the gift of the Holy Spirit upon them. Even after the end of her worldly sojourn, our Mother Mary continues to care for her spiritual children “who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into the happiness of their true home” (Lumen Gentium 59, 62).
We see this, for example, in the appearance of Our Lady of Fatima to the three humble shepherd children Lucia, Blessed Francisco, and Blessed Jacinta, which the Church celebrates tomorrow. Her message was an exhortation to penance, conversion, and prayer for the salvation for souls. At the time, the world was suffering horribly in World War I and she warned of even worse things to come, including persecution of the Church. However, evil and suffering will not have the last word: offering us loving words of hope, our Blessed Mother promised that her Immaculate Heart will triumph in the end.
There is great hardship and suffering in the world, but we do not despair because her Son, the Risen Christ, came to save us from death and destruction. More than that, in his Ascension, Jesus raised up the human body to heaven and thus raised up mankind to heaven, opening up within God a space for humanity, opening up for us eternal life (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. Two, p. 287). But all that is possible only because of a mother’s love.
This day, let us say thank you to our mothers and our Blessed Mother for their enduring love. May God bless them and keep them, forever holding them in his loving embrace.