Mary, mother of Jesus of Nazareth, is a person of special focus for Catholics. This is right and good because Mary is special. She is not only Jesus’ Mother, but she is ours, too.
She was a very young woman, a virgin, engaged to a carpenter, when she was visited by the Archangel Gabriel. He told her that she would give birth to the Son of God. From that evening onwards, Mary’s acceptance of what the angel had to say made our salvation possible. Her ‘yes’ to God’s plan was not only remarkably brave, but also deeply significant.
Before anyone knew who Jesus was, Mary had already carried him, loved him, and welcomed him into her life, and into the world. One way of thinking about Christian life and the church is that we try to emulate Mary's act. We also say ‘yes’ to Jesus, as we welcome Him into our lives. Like Mary, we bring the Gospel into the world through humble, everyday love. She is a model and guide to what a life of faith looks like.
Seeing his mother and the disciple who he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, "woman, this is your son." Then to the disciple he said, "This is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home." John 19:26-27
She was present at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, prompting his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. And she was present at the end, as she watched him suffer on the Cross. According to John, it as at this time that Jesus gave Mary to us as our Mother. At Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came and empowered Jesus' disciples to continue his mission, Mary was among them.
If Jesus is the perfect union of God and humanity, then Mary, as first among the saints, is an extraordinary exemplar of how we can relate to him and come to share in his life.
The Church teaches that Mary is without sin. This can be understood in terms of closeness to God. Sin separates us from God. Yet, Mary contained God in her body during her pregnancy. Therefore, it would not make sense for her to be in a state of sin, because she wasn't separated from God at all. She was as close as humanly possible to God as she nurtured him in her womb.
This closeness features in the gospel of Luke where Gabriel greets Mary, saying: "Hail, full of Grace, the Lord is with you". Because of her sinlessness, the Church teaches that at the end of Mary's life on earth she didn't suffer, but was assumed body and soul into heaven.
Non-Catholic Christians are often sceptical of our special relationship with Mary. This comes from simply misunderstanding how we see her, or because of the exaggerated ways people describe what they think Catholics believe.
Catholics do not worship Mary; rather, we acknowledge the huge part she played in God's saving plan for humanity, and how close she is to her Son. We can ask Mary to intercede for us, which means that we ask her to pray for us as our special advocate and mother.
The Hail Mary
Hail Mary, full of Grace,
The Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.