Mary:the mother of Jesus
“It was a case of harmonious joint action: she prayed, Jesus acted; Jesus prayed and performed miracles, she cooperated, with all the sacrifice it entailed.” (G. Venturini, La Donna di Nazareth, Genova 1988, p. 105).
The information the Bible provides regarding Mary’s stays in Capernaum is, as is usually the case, not in great detail, but it is nonetheless boundless in terms of its content and always rich with surprises. We can draw on it without end (Sal 119,96; Sap 7,14) for our edification and consolation (Acts 20:32; Rom 15:4).
Her first stay is referred to by an eyewitness: St. John the Apostle, the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 19:26), the disciple most like the Master, in the view of both St. Ephrem the Syrian (De virg. 25,9) and Maria Valtorta (o. c. 11,54 and 434).
“After this, he and his mother, his brothers and his disciples went down to Capernaum and stayed there only a few days” (John 2:12). It was thus a brief visit, of “only a few days”; in all likelihood she stayed in the house of Simon Peter (Mark 1:29; 2:1); and there is no record of any untoward episode having taken place. Capernaum, like Nazareth, had not yet disappointed Jesus; this would come later (Luke 4:22ff., 10:15; Matt 11:23ff.).
It goes without saying that the Lord and, with him, his Mother came to Capernaum, as earlier they had to Cana and other places, uniquely for the purpose of doing good (Luke 1:39ff., 4:31ff.; Acts 10:38). "Everything done by Jesus is a mystery and serves our salvation”, as St. Jerome noted (In Marcum 11, 1-10).
As for the Madonna, on this her first visit to Capernaum she continued the work she had officially begun in Cana: that of Mediatrix of all graces and educator of the brothers and disciples of the Son. So Mary, the faithful woman, redeemed the feminine vocation and raised it to the sublime: sowing everywhere kindness and joy (Luke 1:39ff.; John 2:1ff.); while Eve, the unfaithful woman, had sowed discord and pain (Gen 3:6ff.; Sir 25:12ff.). Naturally, here as elsewhere, the Mother did everything in perfect harmony with the Son. The two appear in the Gospel as indivisible, as they will be in the Liturgy and in the authentic life of the Church. And this is what the mystics, those poets of the spiritual world, have always taught.
Thus Mary devoted herself totally to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, “serving the mystery of Redemption” (LG 56), doing everything, so to speak, on tiptoe. On the other hand her presence, discreet though it was, was still visible. The inhabitants of the village were thus able to see her and come to know her, at least by sight, to such an extent that one day they were able to say: “Do we not know ... his mother?” (John 6:42).
Her second stay is referred to in the Synoptic Gospels, specifically in that of St. Mark who provides the fullest account of it. We will thus draw largely from his account. But first an introductory remark.
Jesus was a son different from the others and, what is more, he was challenged by the religious and political leaders of the country (Mark 2:6ff., 3:2, 6, 22ff.). His Mother followed him as she was able, and hastened to him each time that her maternal telepathy warned her of any danger. At a certain point the troublesome Prophet was even accused of being out of his mind (Mark 3:21). In practical terms,we know that the difference between a madman and a criminal is slight: both are subject to confinement for representing a danger to the public order...
Hence the worry of his relatives, in particular, his mother, for whom “all her thoughts were always and only directed towards her Son, the Son of God” (St. Bernadine of Siena).
“His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.’ But he said to them in reply, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother’” (Mark 3:20-21, 31-35).
Naturally we must distinguish between the Mother and the Lord’s other relatives who, unfortunately, did not believe in him (John 7:6); she, on the other hand, is the “blessed” believer par excellence (Luke 1:45), so much so that one day the Son himself was to give her as a “mother” and support to the new family that he was forming (John 19:26ff.). He on his part cannot be outdone in generosity (Mark 10:29ff.). As the Mother leads us to the Son and gives him to us (John 2:5), so the Son leads us to the Mother and gives her to us (John 19:26). And the true believers, when they receive Jesus from Mary, so they receive Mary from Jesus (Luke 1:42ff.; John 19:27), thereby becoming participants in his filial blessedness. The Virgin Mary is in fact the most exquisite gift of the Heavenly Father to the Son made man and, through him, to all believers. “Who was more beautiful and sweeter than Mary?” (St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows). She was above all “the best of mothers” (Pope Pius IX).
This is precisely how the Catholic Church, guided by the Spirit of truth (John 16:13), has always understood the event in question and another similar one (Luke 11:27ff.): “In the course of her Son’s preaching she received the words whereby in extolling a kingdom beyond the calculations and bonds of flesh and blood, He declared blessed those who heard and kept the word of God (cf. Mark 3:35; Luke 11:27ff.) as she was faithfully doing” (cf. Luke 2:19 and 51) (LG 58): She who was “the Virgin who listens” (Mar. cultus 17), “the first disciple of her Son”, the first in time and quality (Red. Mater 20), in sum “the first in the class” (G. Meaolo).
In turn, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, with her keen intuition, pointed out the Madonna’s joy in Jesus’ words on spiritual kinship: “O Immaculate Virgin, most tender of Mothers, in listening to Jesus, you are not saddened. But you rejoice that He makes us understand how our souls become his family here below. Yes, you rejoice that He gives us his life, the infinite treasures of his divinity !… How can we not love you, O my dear Mother, on seeing so much love and so much humility?”(“Why I love you, o Mary!”, translation from the original French available on website of the Sanctuaire de Lisieux, HYPERLINK "http://www.therese-de-lisieux.catholique.fr/Why-I-love-you-o-Mary.html" http://www.therese-de-lisieux.catholique.fr/Why-I-love-you-o-Mary.html)
The Madonna is a mother and, as such, is free from jealousy and rivalry: it is pure love for us, the sons in the Son (Gal 3:26), and is given to each according to his need (Acts 1:14, 4:35). This is why “the Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother” (LG 53), “most loving mother” (Paul VI, Disc. 21-11-64), and imitates her “as its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity” (LG 53).
Mary is a model for us, Paul VI declared, “for the way in which, in her own particular life, she fully and responsibly accepted the will of God (cf. Luke 1:38), because she heard the word of God and acted on it, and because charity and a spirit of service were the driving force of her actions. She is worthy of imitation because she was the first and the most perfect of Christ’s disciples. All of this has a permanent and universal exemplary value” (Mar. cultus 35).
Thus from her, mother and model, we can and we must learn how to live the Christian faith, how to become a Church, in other words, a full and authentic humanity, liberated and promoted to the divine. And it is he himself, Jesus, who wishes it. At Cana the Mother sits us at the school of the Son (John 2:5); here, at Capernaum, it is the Son who sits us at the school of the Mother. He wants us to learn from her to become his family, that is “brother, sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). This occurs precisely through sharing in the “word/will of God” (Luke 8:21; Mark 3:35), which is in fact what made the true greatness of the Mother (Luke 1:45, 11:28) and which, for everyone, represents the secret of all spiritual vitality and fruitfulness, given that “all” are born and grow through the “living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet 1:23, 2:2; Psalms 33:9).
For us, therefore, to accept Mary in this way, as mother and model of life, is both our duty and interest. This means accepting the choice of the beloved disciple (John 19:27) and the nascent church (Acts 1:14): an extremely beneficial choice, which saves and “Christifies” (which says it all). Let us recall the prophetic words of Paul VI: “If we want to be Christians, we must be Marians” (Homily, 24 April 1970).
The Apostle Peter
The family of Jesus
The True Church