ColumnsNaming Grace

Our pushy mama

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She had never met the little girl who lived on the next block, but her mother insisted on a play date since they both were 10 years old. Her mother then strongly suggested that she visit on her own and perhaps each week or every few days. Soon, the girl began to understand that her new friend, Ellen, was sick. After many wonderful times of playing, reading to her friend or just holding her hand, Ellen died of leukemia. Her persistent mother saw a need and called forth her daughter to meet it. The experience formed this little girl, who would grow up and serve as a hospice nurse.

This week’s Gospel, one of the most heartwarming in all of Scripture, paints Mary, the mother of Jesus, pretty much as a pushy mother. She saw a need at a wedding — the wine had run out — and she knew who could fill it. She pushed, though Jesus claimed, his “hour had not yet come.” She knew better; his time was now. She had watched Jesus grow in strength and wisdom, probably seeing far more in him than he saw in himself. Isn’t that exactly what good mothers do? They see needs and possibilities. And then, they nudge, encourage and push: “There’s a need, and you can do this!”

We moms most often see the spiritual gifts in our children and are the ones to move them in developing and using them for God’s glory. Though we would never send our children out ill equipped, mamas know instinctively when their children are ready for service. When seeing the need in another, with encouragement and a gentle push, we say with Mary, “Do whatever he tells you.” When they rise to the challenge, our children grow in confidence in the Lord and in themselves.

I know many pushy mamas, who have encouraged, stretched, pushed and prodded their children to be more — for God’s glory. The mama who encouraged her son to sit with the new kid in school; the son now serves as a principal. The mama who prodded her daughter to practice the piano; the daughter now plays at Mass. The mama who pushed her son to volunteer with the homeless; this son now operates a nonprofit in Haiti.

The wine continues to run out. Mary, representing humanity, is the beginning of a long line of pushy mamas, who seek divine help in meeting the needs of others. As John Foley, SJ, writes in The Sunday Website at St. Louis University, “She (Mary) did not take seriously all the reasons God’s promise cannot be fulfilled at this time. She knew that the people needed the full, rich wine of life, which is love. She trusted her son. She says to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”

As parents/grandparents, we name grace — God’s abundant presence — each time, like Mary, we spy a need and then respond through loving obedience to God’s will. We name grace by teaching our children/grandchildren to seek the intercession of Mary for their needs and the needs of others.

We are blessed to have Mary, our beloved mother, who pushes and prods us to grow closer to her son — to holiness and to service. She acts as our pushy mama by encouraging us to listen to the Spirit and then to do “whatever he tells you,” turning water into wine. And when our wine runs dry, she leads us to receive her son, Jesus, in the Eucharist, where wine turns into the fullness of his body and blood. Now, that’s good news!

When have you been a pushy mama or papa?

How have you responded to a need?