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Mary, Mother and The Educator of Jesus (a theological reflection) By Wensislaus P, FIC

Mary, Mother and The Educator of Jesus (a theological reflection). By Wensislaus P, FIC

Probably we assume, as some early Christians did, that since Jesus was the Son of God that his wisdom was really not acquired from Mary but rather somehow mysteriously infused into him directly by God! Would this not be a violation of what the Church actually teaches - namely, that Jesus, though divine, is also truly human (Credo Nicea-Constantinopel)? Orthodox Christians replied by stressing the true humanity of Jesus, affirming in the Creed that Jesus came "of" or "from" (ex Mariavirgine) Mary. The theologians of the early Church also stressed the real humanity of Jesus by citing the text from Galatians (4:4), that he "was born of a woman, born under the law." Paul spoke to the Galatians about the fullness of time (pienezza del tempo) that Jesus was born of a woman. And how should the fullness of time (incarnation) be done? We can read the infancy of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Mary was called by God as the Mother of Jesus. As a Mother, Mary surely did not only give birth to Jesus, but also educated Him well. It is affirmed by Aristide Serra (biblical Scholar) who said: the mission of Mary as educator is very closely related to her role as a mother. He is the physical-spiritual mother of Jesus (A. Serra, 2016, 27). And about Jesus’ education, Stefano D.Fiores said: The core of the human experience of Jesus in his coming into the world has a necessary educational imprint, which the Gospels evoke with reference to his growth in wisdom, age and grace before God and men (Lk 2:52). Mary with her “fiat” (yes) answered God’s call and did it with her responsibility, with her total heart, from giving birth to Jesus, accompanying Him, and educatimg Him. Mary altogether with her husband Joseph prepared Jesus their son well for His mission in the world.

 The School of Mary

Mary is a an excellent teacher. Her excellence stem from her relation with the Trinity. We could see the role of the Holy Spirit in overshadowing  Mary after she proclamaed her “fiat”. And how does the Holy Spirit overshadow anyone who witnesses Jesus, like Elisabeth, Simeon, Hanna, John, etc? About the school of Mary, Clodovis Boff (mariologist) said: Mary's school is the school of life, and life is not just any life, but a life totally marked by the divine action and by the events it arouses. She is learning from these events, the meaning of which she meditates, like no one, in the depths of her heart (Lk 1, 29.51). Who has lived in greater intimacy with the reality of the Mystery made flesh? Who was a disciple of the Word who enlightens every man (Jn 1,9)? (C. Boff, 2014, 48).

If we stick to the Scriptures, Mary appears as a source of wisdom for Jesus. In particular, we read in Luke 2:40 that the child Jesus "grew and became strong, filled with wisdom." Again, in Luke 2:52 we read that Jesus "increased in wisdom." And in between these two verses, we have the story of Jesus at the age of twelve being found by his parents in the Temple, where he amazed the teachers there with his wisdom. In the first chapters of Luke and Matthew there are some examples of midrashim (darash: interpretation), that is, reflections by the authors that bring home to the Christian community some theological truths about Jesus. Midrash appears arbitrary to us modern people who think that the meaning of a text can only be found in the literal sense of a passage. In a culture where that preoccupation  with the literal sense is absent, the practice of midrash "was not regarded as arbitrary but necessary." The finding of the child Jesus in the Temple is also not arbitrary or without important lessons for believers today (James L. Heft, 2009).

What are some of those lessons? We know that at the time of Jesus the education of children was the primary responsibility of the mother. There were probably no local schools then; it could be said, then, that everybody was home-schooled. Mothers were expected to teach children their culture and religion. Culture and religion were not separate then; they were intimately interrelated, and they had very much to do with wisdom. At the age of thirteen, boys were entrusted to their fathers who would teach them a profession. So, at the age of twelve, Jesus was still under the tutelage  of his mother (James L. Heft, 2009). The first lesson, then, is that Mary taught her son about their culture and religion. She taught him, it can be said, wisdom. It is affirmed by Clodovis Boff, who said that the first lesson for Jesus in his education is religion and cuture of the Jews (C. Boff, 2014).

In several ways, the Scriptures make clear the prominence of Mary in the early life of Jesus. For example, Luke refers twelve times to the parents of Jesus in the narrative about the finding of Jesus in the Temple. Yet, when the couple finally finds Jesus, it is not Joseph but rather Mary who tells him that "your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety" (Lk 2:48). Beverly Gaventa (biblical scholar), notes that the usual English translation of the Greek word, odynoun, "fails to capture the poignancy" of the word. It would be better, according to Gaventa, to say that "your father and I have been searching for you and have been greatly anguished." Note that it is not Joseph but Mary who expresses the anguish both of them have experienced. It is almost as if Mary is saying, "Didn't I raise you with better manners?" That she was responsible for his education is also suggested by a text (6:2) in Mark's gospel, where we read that the people of Nazareth, after listening to Jesus speak in their synagogue, were amazed at his wisdom. Then they asked if he was not the son of Mary - pointing again, perhaps, to the role that she was understood to have had in his education (James L. Heft, 2009).

            C. Boff  describes the role of Mary as mother and educator of Jesus especially in daily life at home and their intimate relation in his book “La vita quotidiana di Maria di Nazareth” (The daily life of Mary of Nazareth). Jesus was a very obedient child to His parents. He was a smart child, diligent in working and prayer. In short, the growth of Jesus as mentioned in Lk 2, 51.52, could not be separated from the role of His Parents, especially Mary, His mother.

Mary was an example of receiving the Word of God, meditating on it, and practicing it totally. This was done as a consequence of obedience to his “fiat” (yes) to God. Who were my mother and brothers? They were those who heard and practiced the Word of God (cf.Mk 3, 31-35). Jesus also learned from Mary how to listen to the Word of God, for example, when in the Garden of Getzemani, Jesus said …it is not My will but Your will. The whole life of Jesus showed how he obeyed the Father's will, listened to the Father's Word and put it into practice. And this He learned from Mary.


Mary is an example of how to educate someone to overcome difficulties (shortcomings) and thus  enable them to transcend themselves. We can reflect on how Mary accompanied her Son and the apostles. What did Mary do when the people ran out of wine at the weeding at Cana? We can see the role of Mary in Jesus' first sign of changing water into wine.

Let us also reflect on how Mary united the community of  apostles, and became their leader. Mary strengthened the comunity of the apostles. She invited them to pray. She educated them on their faith, in order to give them hope and zeal in life, and help them walk by faith in facing the world. Eventhough  Jesus turned to His Father, He did not leave His disciples alone; His Spirit was with them through Mary (Acts 1,14). Mary then is living with us in the Church. She is the model of faith. She is the model of Church, typos Ecclesiae (St. Ambrosius).

Finally, Mary has shown us that an educator must walk with his/her students, invite them to go deeper, become wise, mentally and spiritually strong and then ready to face the world. An educator prepares and leads the students to be ready to face life in any situation, dare to testify and fight for justice and  truth of God. Mary faithfully accompanied Jesus until under the cross at Golgota. We are encouraged to live our Christian life based on our religious experience, the experience of our encounter with God, and our faith experience.

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