Saludos…this is the second post in the series “There’s something about Mary.” The reflection shared is a work in progress as I continue to wrestle with Biblical passages involving Miriam of Galilee, I welcome the perspectives of others in this ongoing journey of understanding who this woman was and who she is on the journey of faith.
The writings in the Gospels of Mark and Luke that involve Mary present us with different accounts and different amounts of information that deal directly with who she was. Mark mentions her in passing while Luke dedicates more chapters and verses to her life. All in all both redactors paint a bipolar portrait of Miriam of Galilee The Gospels as well as Acts describe traditional views of women while also making bold statements that challenge attitudes towards women by uplifting their faith and lives. However, in terms of Mary there is not a consistent treatment of her life but one that changes within and between the writings of these Apostles.
In both Mark and Luke, Mary and Jesus’ siblings are not given VIP treatment for being His family when they come to where He is preaching. Jesus’ reaction to His family’s arrival gives a mixed message about how He viewed His family. On one hand it is striking that Jesus does not use Mary’s testimony as an example of a person who lived out God’s will; whose yes made the incarnation possible and gave Jesus His humanity. Rather He casts her (and the family) aside and replaces her with a new faith-based family. I wonder what Mary was thinking. Was she hurt or mad or bothered by her Son’s treatment of her? If she would have been my mother, I believe I would have put into my place with a quickness from my mother’s famous “look” and possibly even a few choice words—my mother would not care that the Almighty Creator of the Universe was my Father! Mary’s silence could reflect two things. One, her response was not important because of her gender or two, her silence reflects her constant submission to God’s will even when things did not make sense. Though interpreted by some to be a bit harsh, Jesus’ response about who is family amplea, widens, the idea of family by extending it to include el otro, the other. The only condition to be part of this family is to give oneself to G-d—it is an open invitation to all regardless of class, gender, or race. In these accounts, Jesus both diminishes and uplifts Mary by His dismissal of her while using her example and influence of homemaker to widen the family circle to be inclusive of all.
Luke’s opening passages paint a different picture by showing a lowly Galilean woman as an example of faith who does not doubt G-d’s ability to fulfill G-d’s invitation. In contrast, in the previous chapter Zechariah doubtfully questions G-d’s ability to give him and Elizabeth a child—a doubting that is punished. Following this account of the coming of the John the Baptist, we meet a poor, uneducated girl who is shown to be more virtuous than the priest of the sanctuary. Luke also demonstrates the strength and courage of a woman who takes her life into her own hands by accepting the invitation and challenge from the angel—also, her strength and courage are lived out while she rode a donkey while pregnant through the desert into an unknown future. What was she thinking; was she scared, was she asking “why me”, was she asking why donkey’s aren’t equipped with padded seating? Similar to the idea of her silence in Mark, the story portrays a woman who accepted God’s will and did what was necessary in order to fulfill it regardless of the cost to her person, be it emotional or physical (or both). Though his Gospel starts off positively in regards to her role, Luke does not mention Mary in the genealogy that traces Jesus back to Adam despite Jewish faith and identity being passed matrilinealy and later when his mother’s womb is praised he fails to recognize that it was Mary’s womb that heard and obeyed the word of God.
Using the imagery of a mosaic, the bipolar portrayal of Mary in the writings of Mark and Luke demonstrate a tension of juggling various pieces and images of Miriam of Galilee. Her presence in the New Testament may be minimal and at times controversial but it does not take away from her importance in the life of Jesus and the life of His followers.