God’s Son needed a mother to teach him, to keep him safe, to shape his heart, and through Mary the Triune God knows us better.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The festival of St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord
Texts: Luke 1:46-55; Galatians 4:4-7
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Why would God need a mother?
The Triune God chose Incarnation as the path of ultimate revelation, the taking on of our life, our flesh, becoming one with us. In the fullness of time, Paul says, God sent his Son, born of a woman.
But did God need to involve humans at all to save humanity? Since this is what God did, we have to assume it was critical, and any understanding of salvation has to account for this unexpected choice. We have to ask, why did salvation involve God being born of a woman, growing as a child to adulthood? In short, why would God need a mother?
The most obvious need was for the safety of a mother’s care.
The Incarnation is an act of deep vulnerability on God’s part. Few newborns are more helpless than human babies, and the nine months of gestation are a perilous time of potential danger. God’s Son needed a mother who would protect a growing child for nine months, caring for her health and the health of the baby, holding this new life in the embrace of her womb.
Then this child who is God needed a mother to nurse him from her own body, even as he was fed in the womb from her own life, to nurture him as he learned to walk, to talk, to keep him safe from all things that threaten young children even today in our world.
If God was going to become one of us, God needed a mother so this child born to us would survive to call all into life in Christ.
Perhaps God also needed Mary to share her mother’s heart with her son.
In his Gospel, John tells us the Son reveals the Father’s heart to us, and we know from Christ and from Scripture that the heart of God beats deeply in love for us and for all creation. Jesus’ relationship with his heavenly Father was also critical to his life and ministry.
But this child also must have been deeply shaped by his mother’s love, by the heart of Mary. She who dreamed a very human dream and sang about it in Magnificat, she was the one who carried this God-child in her arms. She sang before his birth and surely after, that God would turn over the scales of the world and lift up those who were in pain, hungry, oppressed. She sang, as Hannah did a thousand years before, of her trust that God’s plan would answer humanity’s cry for help.
We know God’s Word has said the Triune God’s love for the world is vast. But we also know God hears and learns when we cry out for God’s healing, as with the Israelites in Egypt. God listens to us to learn compassion for our needs. Why wouldn’t the Son of God need to hear our human pain and longing and hope from his mother’s heart, to know us better? Why wouldn’t the Son need to learn human love the way most do, from a mother’s heart?
Is it possible God also needed a human mother to learn patience?
Mary’s song could be heard as a call to powerful revolution and intervention. Surely there are times God is tempted to simply force this world to become what God dreams it could be.
But in the Incarnation, God chose the path of letting go of power, of losing in order to win us back into the life of Christ. So God began this by learning to wait nine months just for birth, by taking the time to grow up as a human child, day by day, step by step. To live with a woman who sang of God’s restoration of all things but lived with very little power of her own to make it happen. A mother who would teach the Son of God patient waiting, and loving acting, to bring about God’s healing grace.
Someone taught Jesus that even the smallest act of love, like giving a cup of water to a child, can change the world. It’s not hard to imagine he learned that from the loving actions and patient trust of his mother. From her, the Son of God learned how to patiently trust in the planting of seeds of love rather than the blatant use of power and might.
This involves speculation, yes. but there is a truth we know as certainty, and that’s what we celebrate today.
That truth is that the almighty and Triune God, maker of all things, needed Mary in the plan to bring us life and salvation.
Choosing our sister Mary was only the first sign of God’s deeper need, that salvation will be found when all God’s children live in love of God and love of neighbor. In celebrating Mary we celebrate ourselves, that we, too, bear Christ in the world, we, too, teach God of our human hearts, and we, too, are needed in God’s plan of life for all.
Today we marvel that God needs us.
We give thanks and praise to the Triune God who crossed the barrier between us and God by humbly seeking out one of us as a mother, by trusting her for safety, and learning patience and love from her.
And Mary can teach us such patience and love, too. When we doubt that her grand vision of Magnificat will ever be reality, she reminds us God once was willing to wait nine months in her womb just to be born among us. God’s plan will take time, but it will come to pass.
When we struggle against her vision of Magnificat because we fear we are the rich, the ones who will be brought down when the lowly are raised up, she reminds us to love all with compassion and grace, and shapes our moral heart to include not just our own needs, but the needs of all God’s children and creation.
Thanks be to God for this sister who became a mother to our Lord, and so to us all. May we follow her lead, and walk Christ’s path she helps us see before us.
In the name of Jesus. Amen