Mary Sees Her Son in Us
By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 30, 2022
Why did Mary love her Baby? An absurd question? Don’t all mothers now and throughout history love their babies? There are certainly exceptions. But even in a dysfunctional culture, a loving mother is normal, and it is abnormal to withhold love and affection from a child.
Like every good mother, Mary held her Baby, fed Him, and protected Him. During the early formative years, children seem like a burden and require high-maintenance care. But these selfless expressions of love are not self-aware reasons for love; they’re instinctual and spontaneous. A mother’s love and affection for a baby are mysterious.
Mothers almost certainly love their babies in part because babies are innocent, often carrying certain peculiar physical features of mom and dad. Innocence is Godly—true, beautiful, and good. The Divine Innocence of the Christmas season attracts our love for the perfect purity of the Child Jesus—true God and true man.
At the same time, we can fear and even hate innocence because a blameless existence indicts the guilty. Mother Teresa once held a newborn in her arms, scrunched its little face in her hand, raised it toward the camera, and said, "Boo!” She asked, "Why are little ones like this frightening to people in the West? Because they're innocent, and therefore children are the most Christ-like—that's why.”
For those of us who are not so innocent, Divine Innocence sheds light on us and our sins. By fearing Innocence—even hating Innocence—we put Jesus to death. Innocence can be lost, but we cannot destroy it because it is of God. So Divine Innocence rises again to attract us to Him, or to condemn us for refusing His gifts of grace and healing.
We must admit our reluctance to approach the Innocence of the Child of Bethlehem. We were also innocent as tiny babies, flawed by the stain of Original sin. But after losing innocence through our own sins—like Adam and Eve after the Fall, we often hide in shame and despair.
We recognize the superiority of innocence and worry that an accuser may correctly see us for who we are. The saying—“I will not be judged!”—is a silly claim if there ever was one. Deep down, we're inclined to know that God will judge everything we think, say, and do—and to fear Him.
Jesus anticipates our fear of innocence because of our sins. “Fear is useless; what is needed is trust.” (Lk. 8: 50) The Divine Innocence we fear loves us to death, death on the Cross. In the Person of Jesus, God and man are reconciled in love. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) He dwells among us to restore our innocence with His love. He conquered sin, suffering, and death through His Resurrection. Through our encounter with Jesus in the Sacraments, we reclaim our innocence and become one with Him unto glory.
Mary loves the Child Who has taken on our humanity through her. Every Nativity Scene depicts her gazing upon her Child with loving tenderness. Maybe she sees the eyes and ears of her beloved parents, Joachim and Ann. Perhaps she is captivated by the Child's reflection of her smile. Above all, she sees the Reason all generations will call her blessed.
But when Mary gazes upon us—because of the Incarnation—she also sees her Son in us. When Mary sees the features of our face, she also sees the beautiful features of her Son’s face. Mary sees her Son in those who are sons in the Son. Because the Word became flesh, she is also our mother too, who—like Jesus, cannot forget us.
The love that Jesus and Mary have for their children is irrevocable. Their love is a mysterious and beautiful fact. It is a wonder to behold if, with His redeeming grace, we overcome our fear of His innocence.
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