But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead,
they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately Blood and water flowed out.
Today's memorial is something new;
On February 11, 2018, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments inscribed a new obligatory Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, into the General Roman Calendar. This memorial is celebrated every year on the Monday after Pentecost. USCCB
The theme can be no surprise; Catholics have invoked the Mother of Jesus as our mother for a very long time. The new emphasis in this event is discovered in the words "...of the Church." Christians and Catholics of the 21st century realize there are far more "non-Christians" in our world than Christians. Phrases like "non-Christian" and "non-Catholic" only betray a skewed vision of the people who populate the earth. There are far more of "them" than "us," and we're none too sure of who "we" are.
The bishops of the Second Vatican Council saw this new reality rather clearly. As they looked at their own membership, seeing facial features and complexions from all parts of the world, hearing languages utterly foreign to Europe, they began to understand the scope of the Church's mission. At one time, in Europe, "Catholic" meant everybody except the reformers. Suddenly, the world was bigger than the Church. If her mission was to the whole world, her European arms did not stretch far enough.
And so we return to our Asian roots.
Ancient scripture scholars saw the significance of the soldier's thrusting his lance into Jesus' corpse. It was not one final insult to a sacred relic. Rather, in the gush of water and blood, they saw the the Church born from the side of Christ. As Eve was born from Adam's side while he slept, the Church was born of the baptismal water and Eucharistic blood, from Jesus' opened heart, as he slept in death.
The presence of "the mother of Jesus" on Calvary in Saint John's telling, and Jesus' last word to her -- "Behold your Son!" -- also signifies the Birth of the Church.
Her presence in the Cenacle in Jerusalem was also no accident. As the Mother of Jesus she must be present when the Body is born again of the Spirit.
"Why Mary?" someone might ask. Why do Catholics keep promoting Mary as our mother? Why aren't we satisfied with the Church as our mother? Isn't Mary only a symbol of the Church?
I believe the religious imagination, like that of children, is not satisfied with abstractions. "The Church" is an abstract concept, and impossible to define. Does it mean all the baptized, all Catholics, all practicing Catholics, all practicing Catholics who accept all the teachings of the Church with its infallible Pope? Is the Church the institution of pope, cardinals, bishops and priest, and perhaps consecrated sisters and brothers? Might the word include "non-Catholics?" I meet "Catholics" in the hospital and I can tell you, there's no two alike.
Mary, the Mother of the Church, is not an abstraction. Rather, she is the mother of our Savior Jesus Christ; he was born of her flesh. Baptized into his body, we are obviously her children. She speaks to us directly and with a mother's authority in the Scriptures, "Do whatever he tells you!" She speaks for us before God, "I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to you as you have spoken." When she hears, "Behold your son!" she embraces us as her adopted children, just as the Father has adopted us in Jesus Christ.
These are deep concepts but they are not abstractions. We don't think about them; we contemplate them. Which drives us emotionally and spiritually into the arms of Mary, our mother, Mother of the Church.