“And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: Blessed is the womb that bore thee and the paps that gave thee suck. But he said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.” Luke 11:27-28 Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible
I can’t help thinking of this woman as the first Roman Catholic. She wants to focus her attention and reverence on Jesus’ mother. Jesus Himself gently focuses her back on the Word of God.
Christian philosopher and author C. S Lewis wrote to H. Lymen Stebbins, an American Protestant considering converting to Catholicism: “The Roman Church where it differs from this universal tradition and specially from apostolic Xtianity [Christianity] I reject. Thus their theology about the B.V.M. [Blessed Virgin Mary] I reject because it seems utterly foreign to the New Testament: where indeed the words ‘Blessed is the womb that bore thee’ receive a rejoinder pointing in exactly the opposite direction.” Hooper, ed, Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Vol 2: May 8, 1945 (p. 646)
Jesus Christ–many times–pointed us to the Word of God, away from the traditions of men. (eg, Mark 7:8 D-R) And the written Word of God points us back to Jesus Christ, the living Word of God! “Search the scriptures, for you think in them to have life everlasting,” Jesus told the religious leaders during the days He walked among them, “and the same are they that give testimony of me. And you will not come to me that you may have life.” John 5:39-40 D-R
The Bible is all about Jesus.
After His resurrection, Jesus joined two of His disciples leaving Jerusalem and trudging toward the village of Emmaus. They were commiserating with each other that Jesus the Nazarene, “a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people,” the one they “were hoping would redeem Israel,” couldn’t have been the Messiah after all because the religious leaders had put him to death. It was all over. They were dismal with disappointment.
Blinded by their old paradigm by which people who died stayed dead, they did not recognize the risen Christ. The old paradigm had kept them from understanding Jesus’ assurances that he would rise again and, as He was about to point out to them, blinded them to the entire Old Testament: “Then he said to them: O foolish and slow of heart to believe in all things, Which the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and so, to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things that were concerning him.” Luke 24:25-27 D-R
“Moses and all the prophets” constitutes 22 of the 39 books of the Old Testament. The rest is history, poetry and proverbs (which also speak of Him).
Later the apostle Philip would come upon a searcher who was struggling to understand chapter 53 of the prophet Isaiah. “Philip running thither, heard him reading the prophet Isaias. And he said: Thinkest thou that thou understandest what thou readest? Who said: And how can I, unless some man shew me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. And the place of the scripture which he was reading was this: He was led as a sheep to the slaughter: and like a lamb without voice before his shearer, so openeth he not his mouth. In humility his judgment was taken away. His generation who shall declare, for his life shall be taken from the earth? And the eunuch answering Philip, said: I beseech thee, of whom doth the prophet speak this? Of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip, opening his mouth and beginning at this scripture, preached unto him Jesus.” This is Acts 8: -35. You can read the whole context at Acts 8:26-39 D-R.
The Lord Jesus is the focus of the Bible from beginning to end. Genesis 3:15 foreshadows His victory over Satan which is fulfilled in the gospels and celebrated at the end of Revelation. Even if the Catholic Church is correct about Mary appearing throughout the narrative symbolically as the second Eve, the ark of the covenant, and the woman giving birth in Revelation 12, her role pales in light of the Protagonist of the plot, her son Jesus Christ.
The focus is always on Him. John the Baptizer said of Jesus Christ, “He must increase, but I must decrease” John 3:30. He never said of Mary, “She must increase, but I must decrease.”
As Jesus Himself says the focus is on Him, the other members of the Trinity confirm this:
God the Father said of Him, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him” Mark 9:7 D-R. (See also Luke 9:35 D-R and Matthew 17:5 D-R.) He never said of Mary, “This is my beloved Son’s mother: listen to her!”
“But when the Paraclete [Holy Spirit] cometh,” Jesus told his disciples at their last dinner together, “whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me.” John 15:26 D-R “He shall glorify me“ John 16:14 D-R. For context read John 16.* He will testify of Jesus, not Mary. He will glorify Jesus, not Mary.
If the third member of the Trinity focuses on the second member of the Trinity, how dare we focus on one who is not divine! Scott Hahn, in his book Hail, Holy Queen, refers to Mary as “the power behind the throne.” That gives me chills. Mary, a created being, the power behind the omnipotent God, Creator of the universe? That’s blasphemy!
Mary is a means to an end, the means of bringing the Savior into the world. We could perhaps liken her humble role as God’s “handmaiden” to that of the humble donkey who brought the King into Jerusalem. In being obedient to what was asked of it, that creature fulfilled its God-given role in life. Mary’s was different in degree but not in kind. We please God by our faith and obedience in doing whatever it is He has called each of us to do for Him.
We are ambassadors for Christ, according to 2 Corinthians 5:20 D-R. An ambassador delivers someone else’s message. An ambassador is a servant, just doing what s/he is told. And that’s what Mary claimed to be, a servant of the Lord, one who obeys. Not one who makes policy, who advises, who helps save, deliver, redeem or mediate. She is not only NOT the power behind the throne, I believe she would be the first to assure us that she has no power except delegated power in front of the throne, beside the throne, or kneeling at the foot of the throne.
I like what Colton Burpo, the little boy who died and went to heaven when he was four, said about Mary when asked whether he saw her in heaven. (See Colton and Akiane’s Jesus.) He said yes, that he saw Mary standing beside Jesus and at another time he saw her kneeling before the throne of God.
“She still loves him as His mother,” he said.
*For an excellent sermon, “The Holy Spirit Testifies About Christ,” see http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/1557