Michelle Martin

What did Mary think?

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

As I listen to the Gospels for ordinary time, I wonder, what did Mary think?

What did she think of what her now-adult son was doing, and how he was doing it?

Even if she was fully on board that he was who he claimed, that he was the Messiah, the Son of God, just as the angel Gabriel had told her, did she ever want to tell him to tone down the stuff about turning your back on your family, or advise him to try a little harder not to antagonize the Pharisees, or even congratulate him on remembering to feed the multitude?

She, after all, was the one who persuaded him to change the water into wine so as not to embarrass the hosts at the wedding feast in Cana. She understood hospitality.

Sinless though she was, she was human, and Jesus was her human child, a son both entirely human and entirely divine. That means, I think, that just like any parent, she had to teach him all the human stuff: table manners, hygiene and what to wear with what in different kinds of weather. How to get along with people, or, at least, choosing when what you have to say is more important than being diplomatic, and what it means to be diplomatic anyway.

Then he went off into the world of first-century Palestine, and she apparently was not there to hold his hand anymore.

These days, parents who try to stay too involved in their teenagers’ and young adult children’s lives are called helicopter parents, always hovering, ready to spring into action. It is even easier now with the advent of immediate, worldwide communication technology, not to mention social media that can give parents more information than they might want.

I’m pretty sure that kind of over-involved parent existed long before helicopters or social media, but the point remains: You have to let kids grow up and do what they are going to do, and wait to give advice until it’s asked for if you have any hope of it being taken.

Though to anyone whose college-age kids have called to report a mouse in their pantry, I can confirm it’s a bad idea to let the roommates name the mouse.

The Mary of Jesus’ public ministry isn’t the joyful expectant mother who visits her cousin Elizabeth, or the exhausted yet thoughtful new mother of the infancy stories, just figuring out her next steps. It’s not the worried mother looking for 12-year-old Jesus, or the devastated, sorrowful mother watching her son die a cruel, public death on the cross.

I think she is most like the Mary of Cana, comfortable asking (or telling) her son to help, and then proudly telling the stewards to do what he says. She’s proud of him, I think, not because of what he can do, but because he listened to her, and he helped, even in a small way.


  • family life