The first time I went to Fatima, and this has never happened since, I walked into the square. When it is cold outside and when you go into a house as you open the door, a wave of heat just comes over you. When I walked into the square, a wave of Mary’s motherly love came over me, and it almost brought me to tears. It took my breath away. I felt the affectionate care of a mother. I’ve had a wonderful mother, and my upbringing helps me easily relate to Mary by nature. But what is so beautiful about God’s redemption is that He brings good out of everything.
Whether we’ve had difficulty with our relationships with our mother or our father, God can fill in the voids in our life – the absence, the neglect, whether through divorce, death, separation – God can fill those gaps with His love as Father, and His love as mother coming to us through Mary. As an instrument of God’s love for us, Mary helps us to know the maternal affection in a spiritual way that is specific for a woman to give. It is uniquely her, but it points to the divine.
Mary is at the heart of salvation history, biblically, and in our own time. We can understand this biblically through the lens of the simple word, ‘Woman,’ with a capital W. When Jesus uses that term, he uses it to identify Mary as the New Eve, just as Saint Paul identifies Jesus as the new Adam. What does this mean? A new humanity. God is starting over. He is giving us a way to be healed, to be set free, to be made new, through the New Adam and the New Eve, by baptism, through His life, death, and resurrection. We become regenerated, born again, receiving a new life and identity. As Saint Thomas Aquinas says, our dignity becomes super-elevated to share in God’s divine nature. We’re given a new destiny.
Jesus uses the term ‘Woman’ at very important moments – at the wedding feast at Cana, when we see the intercession of Mary among the disciples; we see that amidst this family celebration of love, at a moment of crisis, amidst this feast, was a dilemma. The disciples, in their dilemma, went first to Jesus’ mother and whispered their need to her. She simply made that need known to her Son and Jesus replies, ‘Woman, what does that have to do with me?’ This event is poorly translated in English and unfortunately, many Protestants poorly misinterpret Christ’s words as a sign of disrespect to Mary, almost as if Jesus or John the Evangelist foresaw that Catholics would one day “worship” Mary and this is the biblical proof, when only the Bible alone has authority, 1500 years later. That is an absolutely false theology.
Jesus doesn’t say “Woman” as a show of disrespect but as a show of exalted honor. In so doing, He says, ‘Mother, you are the New Eve. You are going to share with me in this mission, and if I manifest my divine identity, if I let who I am out by this miracle, then Calvary is just around the corner. It’s going to go down! Get on the roller coaster, and put on your seat belt, because the moment this miracle happens, it will all start. Are you ready for this?’ He says, ‘My hour has not yet come! The moment that I was born for, to give my life to save the world, the moment I manifest the miracle, that hour will be upon us. The enemy is going to be looming, and you’re going to be there with me. Are you ready?’
And He performed the miracle. What does Our Lady do? She nonchalantly returns to the disciples, not wanting the limelight, and very humbly, modestly asks them, ‘Do whatever He tells you. If you know what’s for your own good, if you know what’s in your best self-interests, if you want to spare yourself unnecessary suffering, if you want the recipe for sanctity, if you want happiness – do whatever He tells you.’
Sister Lucia, the only surviving visionary of the three Fatima children, and who later became a Carmelite nun, in her book, The Call to Fatima, says that ‘Do whatever He tells you’ is Mary’s only commandment. Her only commandment is seen in Cana. ‘Listen to Him,’ just as the Father said at the Baptism and the Transfiguration. Listen means obey, which means submit – in submission. Enter into His Mission for your life. That is the model of Mary’s vocation. She leads us to obedience and to a life of allegiance to Jesus. Her only desire is that we lead a life in allegiance to Jesus, not allegiance to her.