September 14, 2017
Growing up I thought my mother was magnificent and beautiful but ordinary. She was just a mother who went about her day keeping a home and caring for her family. During her time, Mary was an ordinary woman. Like my mother and so many before her, she cooked, she washed clothes, and she looked after her beloved child. God chose a woman, a seemingly ordinary woman, a person with no real power or prestige, to bring Christ into the world. She turned out to be His first and most lasting disciple.
Mary was extraordinary. Dr. Kenneth J. Howell writes, “Her extraordinariness did not lie in herself; it was a divine gift. By the free choice of God the Father, she was predestined to be the mother of the Redeemer. By His mercy, the heavenly Father filled her soul with His grace and His presence. In divine providence, Mary became the Spouse of the Holy Spirit by receiving in her womb the Son of God. In the silence of her Son’s infant life, she contemplated the astounding truths of heaven.”
One of the first of many examples of discipleship that we witness is Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” She accepts the will of God and then goes immediately to see her cousin, Elizabeth, who has miraculously conceived as well. In a 1997 homily Pope John Paul II said about the long journey and selfless act, “In this act of human solidarity, Mary demonstrated that authentic charity which grows within us when Christ is present.” Being a disciple means giving ourselves over to God, giving up the things we value most, and having absolute faith. We see through Mary’s “ordinary” life that she lived each and every experience as a disciple of God and a model of discipleship for all of us. Mary comes to us, she beckons us, she appears, she hastens, and always for one fundamental reason: to bring us closer to her son. Through her constant presence, she reminds us to pray and urges us to live with deep faith, and to be disciples of Christ.
My own “ordinary”, flawed, imperfect mother is one of the “saints” who brought me closer to God. Raised in a devout Catholic home, she chose to turn away from what her family held most dear for generations: faith. She and my grandmother, pivotal players in my faith life, would struggle for decades with this battle of wills, this test of faith. It was always my mother—the non-believer—who accepted my grandmother exactly as she was and showed her unwavering commitment and respect. Around her own mother, mine became the obedient child, the committed disciple. Ever faithful and dutiful, my mother did not argue or criticize or blame or condemn. Instead she showed love and grace. Undoubtedly, it was mother’s deepest desire to have the unconditional love and acceptance of her mother, like we long for our Blessed Mother. My grandmother, a model of faith, someone who prayed a nightly rosary and attended Mass each Sunday, inspired my faith with her love, attentiveness, and appreciation for ritual, but it was my mother who spoke so passionately about faith, about studying with the Jesuits, about attending Catholic school as a child, about the nuns and influences in her life, who would ignite the spark and quest for God in my own heart and life. It was my mother, the one who does not believe or practice, who took me into a church to light a candle for the very first time to give thanks to God for saving us from a potentially terrible car accident. It was my mother, the saint, who made real how complicated, personal, self-sacrificial, and demanding faith can be. It was my mother who made me see the beauty of giving myself over to God’s will because it will set me free.
Sofía Larkin is the proud daughter of María Luz Espinosa.