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Pope Benedict XVI: Jesus Cannot Refuse His Mother

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By F. K. Bartels
10/16/2011 (7 years ago)
Catholic Online (

Self-giving directed toward the heart of Mary is the path to human flourishing

"It is not self-fulfillment that truly enables people to flourish, according to the model that modern life so often proposes to us, which can easily turn into a sophisticated form of selfishness. Rather it is an attitude of self-giving directed towards the heart of Mary and hence also towards the heart of the Redeemer" -- Benedict XVI

The Virgin Mary, perpetual Virgin and Mother of God, is forever the mother of Jesus who prays and intercedes for her children in the Church.

The Virgin Mary, perpetual Virgin and Mother of God, is forever the mother of Jesus who prays and intercedes for her children in the Church.

VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) -- During his apostolic visit to Germany, Pope Benedict XVI led a Marian Vespers celebration on September 23 at the Wallfahrtskapelle, Etzelsbach, where he prayed the Liturgy of the Hours with the gathered faithful.

During the celebration, the Holy Father gave a brief homily on the influence of the Marian shrine in German history, and on the role of the Mother of God as mother of the faithful and maternal intercessor before her divine Son. As is always the case, Pope Benedict's homily was filled with many sublime statements of theological wisdom and truth. The entire homily is available on the Vatican website.

In his homily, Pope Benedict pointed out that when Christians cultivate a loving relationship with Mary, they do so with the awareness of Mary's maternal role as the mother of Jesus:

"When Christians of all times and places turn to Mary, they are acting on the spontaneous conviction that Jesus cannot refuse his mother what she asks; and they are relying on the unshakable trust that Mary is also our mother -- a mother who has experienced the greatest of all sorrows, who feels all our griefs with us and ponders in a maternal way how to overcome them."

The Pope's statement that Jesus "cannot refuse his mother what she asks" might seem remarkable -- even exaggerated -- to some. Nevertheless, the truth of this statement becomes clear when we understand the focus and intent of Mary's will: there is no incompatibility or disharmony of will between the Mother of God and the Risen One who chose to dwell for a time in the holy temple of her womb. What Mary asks, her Son too desires. 

Scripture clearly emphasizes Mary's unwavering trust in the Father and her unreserved dedication to the salvific mission of her Son, from the Annunciation to the wedding feast at Cana and to the cross itself, Mary stands as the paradigm of the freely united human will to the will of God.

But the relationship of Mary and Jesus goes beyond her free and perfect choice to give of herself completely as God's instrument, for Mary is forever the mother of Jesus. And, since Jesus is God, he thus loves his mother more perfectly and to a greater extent than we are able to grasp. The love of the Risen Lord for his mother transcends the love that men can hold in their hearts for their own biological mothers, since God is capable of loving infinitely and without limit. It is in the context of Jesus' superabundant and unsurpassable love for his mother, the sweet Virgin who bore him and nursed him, that we begin to see why he cannot refuse her requests.

Looking upon the sculpture of the Pietŕ, the Pope noted that on the knees of Mary "rests the lifeless body of her Son," who she holds "gently and lovingly, like a precious gift." Here we are presented with an image of Jesus Christ as the most precious and incomparable gift humankind will ever know; a gift offered by Mary to all people of all places, for through her holy womb the Savior was both brought into the world and given to the world. By virtue of Mary's role as mother of Jesus, she recognizes the precious nature of the gift of her Son on a far deeper and broader level than do we. And it is Mary, as our mother, who, through her intercession, helps to reveal the magnitude of Christ's sacrificial act to humankind.

Two Hearts In An Exchange of Love

The Holy Father noted a particular feature of the holy image of Etzelsbach: "In most representations of the Pietŕ, the dead Jesus is lying with his head facing left, so that the observer can see the wounded side of the Crucified Lord. Here in Etzelsbach, however, the wounded side is concealed, because the body is facing the other way.

"It seems to me that a deep meaning lies hidden in this representation, that only becomes apparent through silent contemplation: in the Etzelsbach image, the hearts of Jesus and his mother are turned to one another; they come close to each other. They exchange their love. We know that the heart is also the seat of the most tender affection as well as the most intimate compassion. In Mary's heart there is room for the love that her divine Son wants to bestow upon the world."

The Pope said that "Marian devotion focuses on contemplation of the relationship between the Mother and her divine Son. The faithful constantly discover new dimensions and qualities which this mystery can help to disclose for us, for example when the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is seen as a symbol of her deep and unreserved loving unity with Christ."

Self-giving Directed Towards The Heart of Mary Is The Path To Human Flourishing

"It is not self-fulfillment that truly enables people to flourish," continued the Pope, "according to the model that modern life so often proposes to us, which can easily turn into a sophisticated form of selfishness. Rather it is an attitude of self-giving directed towards the heart of Mary and hence also towards the heart of the Redeemer."

Pope Benedict here makes a profound but not at all radical statement: the path to human flourishing is through an attitude of self-giving directed towards the heart of Mary. How can this be so? Should not our self-giving be directed primarily to the heart of Jesus?

It is important to understand that the concept of directing our self-giving toward Mary does not in any way reduce our gift of self to Jesus. It is impossible to love Jesus less through an increase in our love for and dedication to his mother. Stated another way, love for Mary nourishes and expands our adoration and love for her divine Son. Ultimately, an attitude of self-giving is a relationship of love: within this human bond, Mary, our mother, exercises her role as maternal intercessor for all the faithful and thus strengthens our relationship with Jesus. Just as salvation was brought to the world through Mary, so too are the prayers of the faithful directed to the Savior through her.

"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28) ... With Mary," continued Pope Benedict, "God has worked for good in everything, and he does not cease, through Mary, to cause good to spread further in the world.

Mary: Channel of Rivers of Grace

"Looking down from the Cross, from the throne of grace and salvation, Jesus gave us his mother Mary to be our mother," said the Pope. "At the moment of his self-offering for mankind, he makes Mary as it were the channel of the rivers of grace that flow from the Cross. At the foot of the Cross, Mary becomes our fellow traveller and protector on life's journey....

"Our trust in the powerful intercession of the Mother of God and our gratitude for the help we have repeatedly experienced impel us, as it were, to think beyond the needs of the moment. What does Mary actually want to say to us, when she rescues us from our plight? She wants to help us grasp the breadth and depth of our Christian vocation. With a mother's tenderness, she wants to make us understand that our whole life should be a response to the love of our God, who is so rich in mercy.

"'Understand,' she seems to say to us, 'that God, who is the source of all that is good and who never desires anything other than your true happiness, has the right to demand of you a life that yields unreservedly and joyfully to his will, striving at the same time that others may do likewise.' Where God is, there is a future. Indeed-when we allow God's love to influence the whole of our lives, then heaven stands open. Then it is possible so to shape the present that it corresponds more and more to the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then the little things of everyday life acquire meaning, and great problems find solutions.

"Confident of this, we pray to Mary; confident of this, we put our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and God. Amen."


F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at


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