The Church dedicates the month of October to Mary, while also focusing on the need for us to live in a pro-life culture during Respect Life Month. Mary is the model for the pro-life movement simply because she loves life. In her life, she is the model of respect for the sanctity of all human life.
At the Annunciation, Mary is presented with the news that as a young, engaged, but yet-to-be married woman, she would become the mother of God. In the moment, the words of Gabriel seem unreasonable since she was still a virgin, so Mary questions, “How can this be?” When the angel explains that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her, in faith, Mary answers “Fiat-yes. Let it be done to me according to your word.” In faith, Mary accepts God’s plan for her life. Even though her pregnancy was unexpected and could be the source of rejection and persecution, Mary chooses life. She loves the life within her.
Mary’s love of life does not stop there. In that moment, she is told her cousin Elizabeth is going to bear a child. In love of life, Mary leaves the comforts of her own home and travels to Elizabeth to help her. Mary’s love for another is a model of the need for us to love those who are in need around us.
In the birth of Jesus, we see the love of Mary for her child and for all children. As she gently cares for the Newborn King, she reminds us to care for all life. As she joins Joseph in going to Bethlehem, and taking Jesus to be circumcised and presented in the temple, Mary’s love of life shows that we must follow just laws, even if it is difficult for us.
Fleeing to Egypt, Joseph and Mary’s love of life requires them to become immigrants to protect the life of Jesus. Going to a foreign country with nothing but each other, the Holy Family must endure the trials of starting over. Family life is not always easy, but it is sacred, and it requires love and trust in the Divine Providence of God.
When Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the temple at the age of 12, their love of life propels them to search for Him. Upon finding Him, their family is reunited and returns home, where Mary and Joseph raise the child Jesus. In her love of life, Mary’s maternal care of Jesus is the example of how parents are to love and nurture their children by giving them a loving home in which to grow and prepare for their role in our world.
At the Wedding feast of Cana, Mary’s love of life leads her to ask Jesus for help. Her love for the wedding couple seeks to keep them from embarrassment. In her love of life, she not only commands the servants, “Do whatever He tells you,” but gives all who read the Gospels a key to a life filled with God’s grace, peace and love.
Mary meets Jesus on the way to Calvary. In this moment, she is present to her Son, even though she is powerless to stop what is happening. In her love of life, Mary models for us what it means to walk with those who are imprisoned and those facing terminal illnesses– to be present to them, to love them, and to walk the journey with them no matter how difficult it becomes.
Mary remains at the foot of the cross. Her own anguish in seeing her Son mocked, beaten and crucified does not lead to despair. In love of life, Mary offers her Son back to the Father with the hope that all of this is happening for a reason. Jesus, out of love for life, sacrifices His own life so that all humanity can have eternal life with God the Father. At this moment, Jesus gives Mary to the world as mother, as He gives her to the care of John.
Mary has appeared to many different people over the centuries. In these apparitions, she gives the message of love and repentance. In love of life, Mary points us to the love of her Son and the desire of God the Father to be united with us in eternal life where there is no pain, suffering or death, but only love, joy and peace.
Mary’s love of life shows us that the pro-life movement must begin with the protection of life from the moment of conception, but that it cannot end there. Being pro-life means loving all life from conception to natural death, protecting the poor, marginalized, the disabled and the immigrant. Being pro-life means loving life, as Mary loved life.
(Deacon Scott Root is the Pastoral Associate and Director of Faith Formation at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Mechanicsburg and Campus Minister at Trinity High School in Camp Hill.)
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Deacon Scott Root, Special to The Witness