By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published January 10, 2023
There’s recently been much ado about people struggling to define “woman.” Saying we can’t define something is tantamount to dismissing it, which is a sad state of affairs for women everywhere.
A baby is born, and in the ordinary world, the first proclamation from the doctor is “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!”
It’s hard to imagine the doctor saying, “It has the physical characteristics of a girl, but we’ll have to wait until the child grows up to know what it actually is.” This kind of nonsensical statement denies obvious reality.
For anyone confused about the definition of “woman,” I suggest examining the life of Mary. When the angel appeared to her, he told her she was “blessed among women.”
The implication was that God’s messenger, the angel, as well as the recipient of the message, Mary, knew exactly what a woman was.
When the angel then told Mary she would bear a son, she was understandably surprised, because she knew a woman can’t have a child without having sexual relations with a man.
The angel replies, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” He also mentions that her relative Elizabeth has conceived a son in her old age. Two biological impossibilities, but God is greater than biology.
God choosing Mary to become a mother, who would be venerated for all ages, reveals a divine model of womanhood. After all, Jesus could have entered the world without being born of a woman. He could have appeared among the crowds as a full-grown man.
The simple story about the conception and birth of Jesus harbors rich treasures about womanhood. For one, Mary shows enormous trust in God, as she surrenders to his will: “Let it be done to me according to thy word.”
When the shepherds visit, they tell her what the angels said about her baby. She’s amazed by the message. This little baby in the manger, the one she kept near her heart for nine months, is the savior of the world!
The ability to conceive and bear a child is a unique gift God has bestowed on women. The gift calls women to make room for others in their lives. What a miracle to feel a baby growing within, and to sense the movements of this child. God gave women another miraculous gift, the ability to produce milk to feed the baby.
What about women like me who don’t have biological children? Many are spiritual mothers to nieces and nephews, godchildren, students and others.
Many are religious sisters, who are mothers to the whole world through prayer. Many women, mothers or not, dedicate themselves to the sciences, the arts and technology in an effort to improve the world.
The story of Jesus’ birth shows that God has gifted women with many possibilities. For example, Anna is a widow in the temple, who could be a forerunner of cloistered nuns. She’s been worshiping for decades, night and day, with fasting and prayer, and is rewarded by God when she meets Jesus.
Mary also shows the great courage women must have, as they face the unknown in their lives. It took courage to tell her fiancé and parents about the pregnancy. It took courage to flee with the baby and Joseph to Egypt to escape the bloody sword of Herod.
And how brave she was, standing beneath the cross, as her son is dying. He is pierced bodily by a sword, while her heart is stabbed with sorrow.
In a wonderful book “The World’s First Love,” Fulton Sheen writes that since Jesus and Mary both suffered, “Somehow sorrow does fit into the Divine plan of life. He adds, “It is made clear that love and sorrow often go together in this life and that only in the next life is sorrow left behind.”
Beneath the cross stands another courageous woman, Mary Magdalene, who is assumed to be childless and unmarried. Mary Magdalene will later have the greatest honor imaginable, when she is first to see the Risen Christ.
God chose the Virgin Mary to be the most important human being in the world. A humble girl, but also a woman of great courage, who stepped out in total faith.
A woman who underwent the greatest suffering imaginable, when she watched her son die. A woman who is revered throughout the world as holy, gracious and loving. The Blessed Mother shows all of us, men and women alike, the importance of making room in our lives for Jesus.