St. Augustine once said that we can all become mothers of Christ. What could that possibly mean?
First, it’s important to realize that he’s reflecting on Jesus’ words: “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50/Mark 3:35/Luke 8:21).
St. Augustine is simply insisting that Jesus really means what He says.
One of the best ways to understand the point is from St. John Eudes, who said: “[Jesus] desires us to perfect the mystery of His incarnation and birth by forming Himself in us and being reborn in our souls.” St. John maintained that Jesus is formed in us through the sacraments and through our daily living.
In that sense, it becomes pretty simple. To the extent that we help Christ to be born in others, through the sacraments and their daily living, we become mothers of Christ. To the extent that we nurture the life of Christ in others, and help His life to flourish in them, we become mothers of Christ.
What are some practical ways to do that?
First, by drawing people to the sacraments! Ask young parents if they’ve scheduled the baptism of their child. Help elderly people get to Mass. Invite people to go to confession with you. When we do those kinds of things we’re exercising the ministry of “mothers of Christ” — allowing Him to be born and grow in others.
Second, by helping people with daily expressions of faith. Pray with people. Support them when they try to live the faith. Challenge them (with as much human skill as we can muster!) where they’re not living up to their faith. When we do these things, we’re exercising the ministry of mothers of Christ, helping Christ’s life to grow in people.
As Gregory the Great once said, “He is above all the mother of Christ who preaches the truth; for he gives birth to our Lord, who brings Him into the hearts of his hearers; and he is the mother of Christ, who through his words inspires a love of our Lord in the spirit of his neighbor.” When our words and deeds help Christ to live in the hearts of others, that’s when we become mothers of Christ.
Both the daily readings and the Sunday readings have us turning our thoughts toward the end times this week. Thoughts of the second coming of Christ often stir up fear in people’s hearts. But let me propose this: to the extent that we grow in being mothers of Christ, we will become less fearful of His second coming.
Because if we spend our days helping Jesus to come into the world, both in our own lives and in the lives of the people around us, we will be well-practiced at welcoming His coming. The more we practice welcoming His daily coming into the world, the less we will have to fear about His definitive coming into the world.
Let’s look for opportunities to become “mothers of Christ.”