UCA News

Mary's lessons in motherhood

A true mother would do anything and everything, anywhere and all the time, for the sake of her child
Mary's lessons in motherhood
Published: January 01, 2021 03:47 AM GMT
Updated: January 01, 2021 03:47 AM GMT

If you are the mother of someone who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, what distinctive characteristics could you possibly possess? To be omnipotent is to have unlimited power, to be able to do anything, all-powerful. To be omniscient is to know everything, all-wise, all-seeing. To be omnipresent is to be present everywhere at the same time.

In the Philippines, it is not uncommon, especially among poor families, for parents to have achieved less academically or economically than their children. The usual goal of parents who have not been blessed with the opportunity to study is to send their children to school at all odds so that they will do better than their parents. When this happens, we see the center of the power structure in a family revolving around the child who provides instead of the parents who are older. 

Thus, the concept of a simple and humble mother of someone who is all-powerful and all-knowing is not difficult to understand. 

They say she has more titles than the number of days of the year, but today on her feast day we look at Mary as the Mother of God. A mother who can be a mother in all circumstances and at all times. And this is not because she was bestowed with the title Mother of God but because her life on earth, which was filled with all the afflictions we go through, is an occasion for us to draw lessons as we go through our life.

At the age of three, the Blessed Mother was already offered to serve at the temple. How many of our young girls, especially in rural areas, are offered as house helpers of neighbors and relatives, even at a very early age? I remember our family’s favorite help was only 12 when she started working for our family. She stayed with us for more than 30 years and evolved from being a help to a second mother to my children. She was dearly loved and on her deathbed it was my children who surrounded her with love. 

As a teenager, the Blessed Mother carried the child Jesus in her, before she was married. Experience tells us, that if she lived today, she would be a subject of gossip among the neighbors. Yet she could not, did not, and would not divulge the secret of the “conception by the Holy Spirit.” Even to her protector to whom she was betrothed, she just waited for the secret to be revealed to him by God.  She must have suffered silently, offering no defense except her continued life of virginal purity. Many of us are victims of gossip and sometimes we are tempted to strike back. It would be good to look at Mary and how she prayed for her attackers. 

As a young “wife” to Joseph, although she came from a not so poor family, she lived in complete simplicity and poverty. Images of her father, St. Joachim, are identified by the presence of a scroll representing linen makers, among others. We learn from tradition that Mary wove the dress Jesus wore. We can safely say that she must have learned the skill of weaving from her parents. Thus, her parents were able to provide for the family with their trade. Using her skill, she clothed her divine Son. We too can use our God-given talents to “clothe” or give glory to God.

Joseph, who worked as a carpenter though in total service of Mary as provider and protector, was just as humble and simple. A carpenter, then and now, would not be able to provide luxuries. Yet tradition says that Mary and Joseph always shared what they had with the poor. 

In a story about Mary by the mystics, it is said that Mary would give away to the poor all the food that they had except for a small amount just enough for her and Joseph for the day. When we eat, do we wonder if our neighbors have food on their table? When the food is overflowing from gifts of friends, do we give away the fruit cake, the ham, the grapes, the cakes, the rolls to our poor neighbors? 

When it was ordered by Rome that they had to go to Bethlehem because Joseph had to register in the place of his birth, she accompanied him, uncomplaining, in spite of the obvious difficulty of a pregnant woman traveling on the back of a donkey across rough roads and uneven terrain. She knew that by being with Joseph at a time when she was about to give birth, she spared Joseph the worry of being away from her when the time came. Did they have enough food and water for the journey?

No complaint badgered Joseph. Instead, she sat patiently, silently in prayer, waited for Joseph at every turn. Do we complain when the air conditioning in our cars is broken?  Do we sneer at the cheap food served in stopovers? Do we use our time in travel to pray and ponder God’s word?

And when the time came for the baby to arrive, all that Joseph was able to find was a warm cave. Did he use hay to cover the hard, cold soil and rocks and make Mary’s bed as comfortable as possible? What did they use for light?  How were they kept warm? Did Mary’s wrap keep her warm against the cold winter wind? We read that Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes, none of the mittens, booties, infant frog suits, hoodies or infant warm blankets. Instead, we see Mary radiant with a mother’s smile as she held her baby close to her heart. 

With the baby’s room ready for the arrival of the baby, do we not complete the infant’s needs with all the clothes, the linen, the musical toys and the stuffed toys? Needs that actually the baby may not even be able to use. Wouldn’t it have been wiser to get only what was necessary and use the excess budget for food and distribute this to the poor in public maternity hospitals? 

Not yet recovered from giving birth, Mary and Joseph had to escape to Egypt to evade sure death at the hands of Herod’s soldiers. Imagine a mother trying to shield her newborn baby from the wind, the sand, the dust and the elements as they traveled to Egypt. A mother who was weak from sleepless nights. Look at the refugees who have to flee from their land to escape murderers. They too are weak from hunger and fatigue. Look at the overseas workers who must leave families behind to work in foreign lands.

When Jesus was missing for three days, did Mary and Joseph not search for their son? The three days must have felt like eternity to a mother whose son was missing. The eternity now suffered by mothers looking for their sons, disappeared by perpetrators, will end as Mary’s did.

Fast forward to when her innocent, sinless son was accused of blasphemy and sentenced to die, did Mary escape and hide herself from the cruel jeers, taunts and hisses of the crowd? Instead of shielding herself, she asked the Father that she be given the grace to take part in the role of Christ as redeemer. A mother who is not able to protect her young suffers more than if she was the one tortured instead of her son. 

Seeing her son hang on the cross and die, the pain must have been indescribable. Mothers of victims of extrajudicial killings, unable to offer their bodies to take the bullets to spare their children, mourn because they could not do anything. 

In the Philippines, on Dec. 20, Sonya Gregorio, 52, shielding her son from the gun of policeman Jonel Nuezca, received a bullet by hugging her son, but this did not prevent the death of her 25-year-old son, Frank Anthony Gregorio, from the same gun. The community, the country, are grieving after this senseless violence from the hands of a supposed protector of lives. Should we not grieve for our sins that caused the death of an innocent son?

A true mother would do anything and everything, anywhere and all the time, for the sake of her child. The Mother of God showed us how.

Edita Tronqued-Burgos is a doctor of education and a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. Gunmen believed to be soldiers abducted her son Jonas Burgos in Manila in April 2007. He is still missing. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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