The Spiritual Maternity of Mary

Tuesday April 9, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Easter

Reading (Acts 4:32-37) Gospel (St. John 3:7b-15)

In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that we have to be begotten from above. Now we know that He links this also with being born again by water and the Holy Spirit; we naturally think of Baptism. But I think we even have to go a step beyond that to recognize that in Baptism we are born of Holy Church. The Church, being the Bride of Christ, gives birth to all of those reborn in Baptism. But it is a step beyond that as well because if we consider how it is that a person is begotten and born in the natural order - one must be begotten within a woman and go through the process of birth. If we are going to be reborn, we also must be begotten of a woman and we must be born. That woman is Our Lady because each one of us, when we rise from the waters of Baptism, are members of Jesus Christ; and as members of Christ, each one is called to be another Christ, in that sense. Jesus, of course, is born of Mary. So if we are going to share in the divine life, we have to be born through the power of the Holy Spirit, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit as Jesus Himself was. And the Holy Spirit, being the Spouse of Our Lady, is going to conceive each one of us in the heart of Our Lady.

When we think about the spiritual maternity of Mary, we can say that at the Fiat, when the angel asked if she would be the Mother of the Messiah and she said yes, she conceived in her heart before she conceived in her womb. Conceiving in her heart, she not only conceived the physical Person of Jesus Christ, but the mystical Christ as well. She conceived in her heart every single person who would be reborn in her Son. Since she conceived us in the heart, the question, of course, is where and when did she give birth? We see that also in the Gospel: Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up on the Cross so that all who believe in Him would have life. It was when He was on the Cross, when Our Lady’s heart was pierced, that what she had conceived in her heart now found an opening to be born. It is there - from the foot of the Cross where the woman stood in utter pain and wailing aloud, as we read in Revelation - that she gave birth to each one of us in a spiritual way. So we can truly call her our spiritual mother.

Now, for each one of us, it is the question of choosing her to be our spiritual mother. Are we willing to allow her to be the mother that Jesus has given to us? Once again, from the Cross is where that happened, when He said, "Woman, behold your son." And He said then to each one of us in the person of Saint John (because each one of us must be the beloved disciple of Our Lord), "Behold your mother." So she truly is our mother, and it is in her that each one has been conceived. It is through her that we have rebirth. Now, for each one of us, we can have the fullness of life only in and through her.

It will take place in the Church, certainly; and it takes place through the Sacraments; but it takes place in and through Our Lady. We are taught by the Second Vatican Council that the Church is the sacrament of salvation; so everything is within the Church. The Church is the Bride of Christ, and Mary is the preeminent member of the Church. So, in a sense, while we can say that the Church is born of the side of Christ, the Church is also exemplified most perfectly in Our Lady. Consequently, then, the rebirth, which is ours at Baptism, is in a special way in and through Our Blessed Lady. She truly is our mother who has conceived us, who has borne us, who nourishes us, who teaches us, who does everything for us that any natural mother would do for us – but she does it on a spiritual level.

The difference is, for us, that it must be a choice. We have no choice who our natural mother will be. We do have a choice who our spiritual mother will be. The Lord has given us this mother - we can say yes or no. It is our choice. We have only one option: If we choose against Our Lady, we know the one we are choosing instead. So the yes or no is an eternal choice. Are we going to choose Satan or are we going to choose Our Lady? That is the choice that we have to make. One or the other will be our mother - one to a birth of life; one to a birth of death. The choice lies, no longer with the Lord or with Our Lady, but with us. Are we going to be reborn? Are we going to choose the life that Mary gave birth to in Jesus, and choose the everlasting life that we have through the Cross? Or are we going to choose the façade that in this world appears to be life, and choose eternal death? That is what is held out before us. [It is] exactly what Moses held out before the people 3,500 years ago: life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose Mary. Choose life.

* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.