Jesus didn't just come from Mary's womb, he came from the labyrinth of her love.

("Christ And Mary," Lucas Cranach the Elder)

When the alarm sounds, I prefer raising the shades to turning on the lights. It’s gentler. In summer, sun floods the room. In winter, you open to a darkness, edged in rose, as my bedroom windows face the east.

The other morning I opened them and saw Brad Bressler, across the street, walking in Wolf Park. That didn’t surprise me. Brad walks by several times a day. On many a day, he may be the first, or the last, person whom I see.

Advertisement

This time, seeing Brad reminded me of his mother, Delores, who died back in 2005. You see, I’m pastoring in the town where I grew up. So, I’m doing a very strange thing, at least a thing I never thought that I would do, in a very familiar place. Brad is only a little younger than I am. I can remember Delores bringing him and his brother, Kirk, each week to church, what pew they sat in, what her winter coat looked like.

I’ve lived eight years of my life in Rome, 10 years in New York City, and so many other places. Why would I remember that? But it’s the nature of small town life. You remember, not just because you see the same faces in the same places, but also because each visage comes with a story, an identity.

I suspect that it was once like that in cities as well, because, as large as they were, cities were made up of neighborhoods, parishes, blocks. Before cars and freeways, one was surrounded by familiar faces, even in a city.

On this morning, I thought of what Delores had accomplished. Brad was born with a disabled arm and foot, which has kept him from working. He lives with his brother Kirk. Two bachelors, very different in temperament, yet they’re still together after all these years. Delores did that.

I wanted to know more. And, do you know how a man does that? He asks a woman, because one difference between most men and most women is that men notice what other people do, while women pay attention to their relationships.

Two years ago, I would have asked my mother. Now, I tend to take such a question to the first woman I see. I mean, of course, to the first woman whom I see and whom I know. I’m not trying to frighten folk. What she can tell me about so and so? Often, that’s Jamie, the parish secretary.

“Why don’t I remember a Mr. Bressler?” Why just Delores and the boys?

“You can ask Bernice Petz to be sure, because she and Delores were sisters. Rose Moos was their mother. Bernice told me that Wendell died when his boys were still tykes. Delores brought them home, and her mother helped her to raise them. She said that Brad can answer any sports question I could put to him. “

There is nothing extraordinary in this tale. It’s really only the story of a man, and a rather unobservant one at that, waking up one day and noticing a wonderful thing: a disabled man, living a full life, here in his hometown, because his mother taught him and his brother to care for each other. With the help of her mother Rose, Delores rescued her boys from the tragedy of their father’s death.

To learn of this, I had to ask women to tell me what other women did, or rather, who other women were. What their relationships, their loves, had accomplished.

We celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. It was the first Marian feast to enter the church’s calendar, and it’s always been in close orbit to Christmas. The church seemed, almost intuitively, to comprehend that to see the son was to meet the mother.

This year, set aside all of the dogmas and doctrines about Mary. They certainly do have their place, because they reveal the effect of the Incarnate Redeemer upon our humanity. But before Mary was the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of the church, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, she was the mother of Jesus. What does that mean to us?

We speak of Jesus coming from the womb of Mary. It’s very important, especially for men, to know the provenance of a child. But Christ didn’t just come from the physical womb of Mary, he came forth from the labyrinth of her love: her smile, her face, her voice, her caress, her memories, her faith and her habits. Everything that she was, formed who he became.

Jesus stands at the center of our history, without ever writing a word or leading an army. He is there because of who he is, and she stands with him because she, of all on earth, is most responsible for who he is.

Almost two years ago, a few weeks after my mother’s death, it was announced that I was coming home, to Ellinwood, Kan. I received a letter from Kirk Bressler. I thought it particularly kind and attentive of him. Most people wait until they see you before befriending you. Kirk wrote that my own parents would be so very proud to have me coming home.

I didn’t know what to make of that. I didn’t feel proud to be coming home. Why would they? But then, being a shallow man, how could I realize just how important relationships are? We are relationships. We are labyrinths of love.

Readings: Numbers 6: 22-27   Galatians 4: 4-7   Luke 2: 16-21

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Bruce Snowden
11 months 3 weeks ago
Fabulous Father Klein! “Labyrinth” is another word for “maze” and it’s truly amazing the influence Mother Mary had and still has on her son, Jesus and Jesus on her. He was flesh of her flesh and bone of her bone. Her DNA shared with the Spirit of God through his “coming upon her” was his. So close was their mother/son relationship that at Calvary when his heart was pierced allowing pericardial fluid and blood to flow, “blood and water” Scripture called it, her heart was also pierced, just as Simeon had predicted more than three decades earlier at the Presentation. Yes, Mary is truly CoRedemptrix, a significance the whole Church shares as she is also Mother of the Church our heavenly Mother. A delightful labyrinth through which we are called to walk trustingly. Mothers especially like to brag about their children. Mary no different. You can trust him she told the servants at the Wedding of Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.” I know a funny story about mothers bragging about their sons, maybe inappropriate to the frame at hand. But allow me tell it, rooted in my belief that wholesome humor, generating the joy of wholesome laughter is related to the Holy Spirit’s Gift of Joy and so is not inappropriate. Here’s the joke. Three Catholic Mothers were sitting together and one of them proudly said, “As you know my son is a priest.” A second lady responded, “Well, it hasn’t been officially announced, then like a peacock out for a stroll said, “My son is going to be named a Bishop.” The third lady sat very quietly until one of her friends said, “How about your son?” She answered somewhat hesitantly, “Well, “He’s tall, he’s dark and he’s handsome and whenever he enters a room filled with people, all the girls cry out, “O God!” Blessed Mother says, “Well my son is also a priest, and also a Bishop and he is also God, coequal to the Father! He is also Savior of the World, and still hurls universes off his fingertips in an ongoing, unfinished creation!. Yeah, I don’t want to brag, but as I once said, “Do whatever he tells you!” Is there anything better? My simple response to an outstanding essay. Again, Fr. Klein, Thanks!
Lisa Weber
11 months 2 weeks ago
I enjoyed your comments about relationships and the fact that women pay attention to them. Paying attention to emotions and relationships are how women have managed to survive. Worthy of note is that Jesus changed our relationships with his teachings. He changed how we relate to God and to each other. It is too long to explain here, but it is most interesting!

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

25,000 children and pilgrim sang the pope “Happy Birthday" today in St. Peter’s Square.
Gerard O’ConnellDecember 17, 2017
A reflection for the third Sunday of Advent
Elizabeth Kirkland CahillDecember 16, 2017
Homeless people are seen in Washington June 22. Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., chair of the U.S. bishops' domestic policy committee, released a statement Nov. 17 proclaiming that the House of Representatives "ignored impacts to the poor and families" in passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act the previous day. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
The United States is thwarting the advancement of millions of its citizens, a UN rapporteur says.
Kevin ClarkeDecember 16, 2017
Why not tax individuals for what they take out of society instead of what they contribute?
Paul D. McNelis, S.J.December 15, 2017