About the Virgin Mary

I was asked, recently, to comment upon apparitions of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. Here’s how I responded (in case anyone else is interested):

It’s difficult to talk about the Virgin Mary. On the extremes, Protestants contend that reverencing her borders on polytheism while Catholics take offense at any slight (as if somebody said something bad about your mom). It is my opinion, from Scripture, that Mary was a virgin until after the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:25) and that when the Gospels talk about Jesus’ brothers, they mean just that (John 7:3).

I think that Mary was fallible, just like the rest of us and needed salvation through her Son, just as we do. I think of the time that she and her other sons came to take Jesus away because they thought he was “out of his mind” (Mark 3:20-34). It is also seems that she jumped the gun with her request for him to do something about the wine shortage at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. Jesus told Mary that his “hour has not yet come” (John 2:1-12). God the Father must have told Jesus to go ahead and change the water into wine moments later, honoring her request.

Mary was blessed and graced like no other in history (Luke 1). Most Protestants pay too little attention to Mary as a model of faith, obedience, and perseverance compared to Jesus’ other male disciples.  The Orthodox Church has a slightly different perspective on Mary than the Catholic Church. In Orthodox iconography, Mary is never pictured without Jesus. I think that’s healthier. Mary must always point to Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Thus, the sightings of the Virgin Mary, alone, at Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, and Medjugorje present me with slight problems. One of my problems is: why Mary and not other disciples? Is it because she’s a woman and sometimes the church needs a more feminine touch? Why are there no records of Mary’s supernatural visitations earlier in church history? Why is it predominantly a Roman Catholic thing? All that aside, I believe that God could send Mary as an ambassador if He thought it would bring people closer to Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life” because no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). So, I would look at the fruit of the apparitions – do they point people to Jesus?

Look at the span of her life and see where Mary was after the resurrection. She was with the believers in the Upper Room, waiting for the Holy Spirit to fall upon them (Acts 1:12-14). We would be wise to do likewise. She must have become part of the community of the faithful that shared with one another as each had need. She must have devoted herself to prayer and to the Apostles’ teaching (like the rest of the church in Acts 2:42-47).  Let’s be like Mary.

Ultimately, Mary falls at her Son’s feet with the rest of the saints, thanking Him for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life (Revelation 7:9-10).  The result of her being “highly favored,” the one of whom Elizabeth said,  “blessed are you among women,” and she whom “all generations will call blessed” will live happily under her Son’s rule, now unto the ages of ages.

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