Never having been able to understand that impulse which prompts some to want to see in Jesus’ comments disrespect to his mother (have those who do ever met a good Jewish boy who disrespected his mother?), it takes an effort for me to see why anyone would take some passages of Scripture as doing just that. But if we are to take Mary seriously, we must make the effort.
Mark 3 has Jesus responding to the crowd referring to his birth family by reference to his echatalogical family. Rightly pointing out that those who believe in him are his real family does not, as some seem to imagine, that he is in any way disowning his birth family. For that to be the case, we should have to believe that throughout Mark he is rejecting the Apostles, for they, too, like his birth family, do not fully grasp his mission – and will not do so, any more than anyone else will, until the Resurrection. Growth in understanding comes through suffering, and most of all, through the Cross and the Resurrection; how odd it would be to claim that Our Lady was in some way exempt from this process. Indeed, were we to do so, critics would use it as an example of our being unscriptural. As it is, they misunderstand Scripture to make it agree with their own rejection of the way the Church has always read Our Lady.
Even less do I comprehend how anyone can read Luke 8:19-21 of exclduing Mary from the blessing Jesus pronounces on all who believe in him. Have those who adopt this peculiar interpretation not read the first two chapters of Luke? Do they suppose Mary had forgotten the Annunication? Do they simply not believe that she kept these things in her heart and pondered them? Or are they simply so desperate to avoid the veneration the Church has always given to her whose name has always been blessed, that they grasp at any straw? The heart of man is an odd thing indeed when it turns from the love of the mother of Jesus to needing to downgrade her. Given that our last glimpse of her in the Gospels (I count Acts as the second part of Luke’s Gospel) is with the Apostles and the disciples in prayer and supplication following Pentecost, and I am at a loss to understand the attitude of some Protestants. We see, from beginning to end, a woman of great faith who suffers greatly, who is at the foot of the Cross when most of the men has fled, and who is the pattern of our faith.
If we take another passage used for the ignoble purpose of supposing that Jesus did not respect his mother, the Wedding at Cana, we see, if we read it through the eyes of the Church, something important happening. Mary was already at the wedding, she did not go with Jesus and the disciples. When she tells him they have no wine, Jesus questions her. What is going on here? Until now Jesus has done no miracles. Why is Mary telling him about the lack of wine? He’s not a wine salesman, he’s not going to pop down to the local vinery to get more in. What is the wine if it is not the richness of the kingdom? As his mother, Mary would have no place asking her son for more wine – but as a believer, she is evidencing her faith – she what she says to the servants – “Do whatever he tells you”. This marks the change that is now happening. This is not simply a mother and a son, this is a believer and the Messiah – and we see afterwards she goes will him and the disciples down to Capernum. This new relationship will continue at the foot of the Cross, when he will hand her into the care of St John: in his dying moments his thoughts are with his mother, and, the Church tells us, with her as the representation of his Church. John is portrayed as the model disciple, and Mary is, rightly conceived, the mother of the community of disciples – the Church itself.
In emphasising the role of Mary, the Church takes nothing from her Son, all she does witnesses to him. Have individuals seemed, sometimes, to take this too far? Perhaps, although who is to curb the love that pours out when we contemplate Our Lady? It may be that some have taken extravagant paens of love and respect for her as something they are not, but the fault there lies in the eyes of the beholder. No Catholic, no Christian, ever worships Mary in the way we worship her Son. But we called her blessed, and where she touches our hearts – and how she does so for some of us – we may well, in the eyes of some, go overboard – oh but who can love parsimoniously? Who, being brought through her to Him, would not want to sing of their love for Our Holy Mother?