A few days ago, the Church marked and remembered the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. That solemnity commemorated the mysterious truth that the Blessed Virgin Mary was from the first moment of her conception preserved from the deleterious effects of original sin. This happened to prepare the Blessed Virgin Mary for her mission and purpose, which was to be the Mother of God—the singular and privileged means by which God would come into this world as a man, share with us a human nature, and live, like us, a real, human life.
The Mother of God did something no one else will ever do, and to prepare her for this, God permitted her to be unique in a way that makes her distinct from all humanity. Because of her elevated dignity we might be tempted to think of the Mother of God as a heavenly creature exempt from worldly cares and circumstances. Reigning far above us in a heaven far away, Christ’s mother is beautiful, but remote. This perception would be a mistake.
The manner in which the Mother of God was privileged made her more human rather than less. She was and is a paradigm of all that a human nature is meant to be—“full of grace”—a representation to us of what humanity was meant to be and should have been if not for effects of sin. However, her privileged identity and unique mission doesn’t make her something other than a human being. Despite the honor the Lord grants her which is above any of the creatures of heaven, she is an earthly creature.
Thinking of the Blessed Virgin Mary in this way necessitates that we think differently from the manner in which we are accustomed to think about what it means to be human. We think that our own perceptions of humanity are the norm. But might there be a different norm or measure of what it truly means to be human?
Our Faith reveals that the saints show us more about what it means to be human than anything else, and the Mother of God is a saint par excellence.
The Blessed Virgin Mary illuminates what God’s perception of our humanity is, revealing not only what we have become in contrast to her, but also what he intends for us to be as we are transformed by Christ’s life and presence. She shows us something about ourselves that we often fail to consider—that there meant to be more for us than our narrow minds and expectations will often times permit.
The elevation by Grace of the Mother of God sets her about a mission that immerses her into the human condition with an intensity that is as unique as her singular identity. This was the case during her life on earth, and it remains the case in terms of her life in heaven.
Christ’s Mother continues to be about her mission. She is the Mother of the Lord and as such, he extends to her the role of being the Mother of all those he has made the children of God in Christ.
Throughout the history of the Church, the Mother of God has manifested her maternal care for the children of God in Christ in extraordinary ways. She has come to her children, appearing to them, revealing to them that just as the Lord abided with her as her Son, he abides with his people as Savior and Redeemer.
The feast we celebrate today, the commemoration of the appearances of the Mother of God in Mexico in the year 1531 to the Indian, St. Juan Diego, is one of many examples of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s continuing mission on behalf of the Church. Through her visitation to in 1531, the Mother of God brought her Son to the peoples of Mexico, and her invitation for all the peoples to know Christ and to serve him continues to resound from the great shrine in Mexico City that the Church built to honor Christ’s Mother—knowing that in honoring her, her Divine Son is himself honored.
The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe reminds us that Christ’s mother continues to act on our behalf. She accepts us and loves us with the same maternal affection and care that she bestowed on Christ the Lord.
But the story of Guadalupe also reminds us of the bonds of grace that because of Christ transcend the ties of family, clan, culture, or nation. Above and beyond all these earthly categories, we are members of the communion of saints. In the saints, we see who God wants us to be and learn from them what it really means to be human.
And of all the saints in heaven, no saint teaches us this lesson and shows us what God wants from us more than the woman he chose from all women to be the Mother of Our Lord.
This piece was originally published on December 12, 2014 on WordonFire.org.
Update on Youtube Word on Fire in Mexico: At Our Lady of Guadalupe
Day 2 of our filming in Mexico City. In this video, Bishop Barron describes his reaction to first seeing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and reflects on the power that image has had through the years.