Sunday Mass Text - Latin
Text - English
Mass - Queen of Apostles
Today is the Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension, and also the day on
which we honor all of our Mothers. On the day, I always use the term “mother”
in its broadest possible sense—there are many women and not a few men who have
stepped in and helped out when our biological parents were unable or
unwilling—we honor all of these today.
Of all the titles given to the Blessed
Virgin Mary, surely the most exalted one is “Mother of God.” This title was the
subject of some debate, with some in the early Church insisting that while Mary
was the Mother of Christ, calling her “Mother of God” went impossibly far in
glorifying her. At the third Ecumenical Council, held at Ephesus (in Western
Turkey) in 431 A.D., Saint Cyril of Alexandria debated Nestorius of
Constantinople, and argued successfully that since Jesus Christ was true God and
true man (in what is called the “hypostatic union”) and since Mary carried Jesus
in her womb and gave birth to Him, it was reasonable to say that she was the
“God bearer” (Θεοτόκος in Greek), which we Western Catholics translate as
“Mother of God.” The Council approved Saint Cyril as being dogmatically
correct, and condemned Nestorius’ position as being heretical.
It must be understood that the Church is
not placing Mary before God—God is the source of all creation, including Mary
whom He created, and not the other way around.
In my opinion, the Western title,
“Mother of God” is more accurate than the Greek “Bearer of God,” for Mary did
far more for Jesus than simply giving birth to Him. In His human nature, the
infant Jesus was utterly dependent on Mary in every way—for nutrition, and
clothing, and protection from the elements—and every other way in which a child
is dependent on his mother. Quite likely, it was Mary who taught Him His first
words, and helped Him to take His first steps. Like any other child, Jesus had
to acquire all of the human skills for coping with the world around Him—things
like washing His hands, cutting His food, and buckling His shoes.
It is reasonable to say that only Joseph
would have been second to Mary in the development of Our Lord, and deserves to
be reputed as Jesus’ other parent. In fact, living in Jewish society, Joseph
probably provided most of Jesus’ religious training. In any event, the Holy
Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph provides the perfect example of the shared
responsibilities of family life—mother, father, and child. Doing with less may
be possible, but single parent homes ought to be the rare exception and not the
rule. Both mothers and fathers ought to see this as part of God’s plan and do
all that they can to carry out their parental responsibilities.
And, no two mothers
or two fathers is not what God had in mind either!
Now, my reason for mentioning Mary’s
title as “Mother of God” is that I would like to draw a parallel between Mary’s
motherhood and the motherhood exercised by all of our mothers. The Baltimore
Catechism tells us that we are all “made in the image and likeness of
That means that all of our mothers are entrusted with children who are
“God-like,” having an immortal soul which “is like God because it is a spirit
having understanding and free will, and is destined to live forever.”
Being the mother or father of a “God-like” being is a tremendous responsibility!
“Understanding and free will.” Let’s
look at those more closely. “Understanding” cannot exist in a vacuum. Mothers
must look to the education of their children—not just “book learning,” but in
all of the ways a person needs to make his way through life. The more he knows
about reality, the better that child will be able to make use of that “God‑like”
Likewise, “free will” needs parental
guidance. Children need to learn that there are limits to civilized behavior,
and that violating those limits usually brings about unfortunate consequences.
I am not talking about punishment, so much as the need for the child to
recognize what will be good for him and his family and what will adversely
In the life of any child, “understanding
and free will” are slowly developed until he reaches maturity; so many years are
required to make the child “God-like.” A great deal of this will depend on the
good example given by the parents. It is far more important that they be good
people, rather than that they be highly intelligent people. Quite by
coincidence I read a phrase that says it well:
Children deserve and desperately need firmness, patience, fairness,
limits, kindness, insight, and a good non-hypocritical example.
Remember that the Catechism concludes
that the human soul is like God in that it “is destined to live forever.”
It is intended by God for that period of “forever” to be spent with Him in
eternal happiness. The proper development of the “intellect and free will” is
critical to this end. There may be other ways that people can properly develop
their “intellect and free will” but I think it is safe to say that many of the
people in heaven are there because they had loving mothers,
So, all of you who fit into my rather
broad description of motherhood—congratulations on your day. Today, and every
day, let us be sure to pray for all of them, the living and the dead. Be sure
to call Mom today if you are fortunate enough to have her among the living—be
sure to pray for her in either event.