Thursday, May 8, 2014

God is Our Mother

First Communion 1963--Ready for my Close-up!
There is a dish very popular at Lutheran church suppers in the Midwest, called Glorified Rice. It is made with rice, marshmallows, pineapple, jello and mayonnaise (I know, right?). There’s actually a book that humorously compares Catholics and Lutherans called, “They Glorify Mary, We Glorify Rice.”

Catholics tend to be major Mary fans. I was certainly one of those who saw Our Lady as an intermediary, a more accessible bigwig, kind of like the executive vice-president, the one who has the Boss’s ear. Don’t bother Jesus with this stuff, but bug his Mom. She’ll get Him to listen. The wedding at Cana? That’s just one example of her clout.

Mary seemed to me to be the perfect mother. Sweet, sinless, self-sacrificing. Mary raised the perfect child. She had to watch Him die. But she also got to see Him come back, and in the end she got a great reward—she didn’t have to die at all. She was “assumed” body and soul, into Heaven. That’s what I was taught. I was fascinated by Mary’s reported appearances all over the world, especially at Fatima and Lourdes. It made sense—she wasn’t quite God, I couldn’t imagine God having time to appear to shepherd girls on hillsides these days. He’d need to send the second team, Mom, with messages from Him.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with honoring Mary. I do worry when Mary becomes a substitute for the God we’ve decided has no time for us. I worry when we use an image of Mary to deflect the very real possibility that God has a feminine side.

In 1373, a nun and a mystic, Julian of Norwich, had a different kind of vision. “As truly as God is our Father, so just as truly is God our mother. In our father, God Almighty, we have our being; in our merciful mother God we are remade and restored. It is God, the strength and goodness of fatherhood, It is God the wisdom of motherhood. It is God, the light and grace of holy love.”

GK Chesterton wrote of a man, doomed to Hell for his mistakes in life. One by one, his friends pleaded with Satan to let the man out of Hell. One by one, Satan ignored their pleas. Finally, the man’s mother appeared at the gates of Hell. She didn’t plead from the safety of the other side. She instantly said, “Let me in”, and the gates of Hell opened for the man to be freed. That is the limitless love of a mother. That is the limitless love of our God.

So let’s take our limits off  God. To take nothing away from Mary, Mary is not God. God is God. And if God is our Father, I believe that God is also our Mother.  What a joy to know that we live sheltered by our Divine Father’s strength, and held in our Divine Mother’s arms, for all eternity.

God bless you all this Mother’s Day.

Oh Mary We Crown Thee with Blossoms Today

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