The first time I read this Gospel story, I wondered what I would feel if I heard my son dismiss me so casually. "No, my mother isn’t any more important than anyone else. In fact, I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done, as long as you are listening to God’s word and trying to follow it." Was he serious? Did he hold his mother, who sacrificed so much for him, in no higher regard than his other followers? Was she not special in some way?
As I thought about it, though, I realized the gift of this simple statement. In Christ, there is no hierarchy of status. It doesn’t matter if I am the most obedient rule-follower, the most recognized parish volunteer, the best preacher, the most devoted Christian, or the Mother of God herself. I am no more special in God’s eyes than the rest of my sisters and brothers. That is a humbling thought when I am tempted to judge people as either lesser or better than myself. In Christ, there is no such thing.
Yet on the flip side, this does not mean I am insignificant. Rather than diminishing any of us, Jesus raises up all of us. Amazingly, in God’s eyes I am just as special as Mary herself. And my worth, value, and lovability are not dependent on my actions or efforts. Because I am loved so completely and unconditionally already, there is nothing I can do to become more precious to God.
This is incredibly freeing. My actions and efforts, rather than being attempts to prove my worth, demonstrate my faithfulness, or elevate my status, can instead be heartfelt responses to such overwhelming love. I can act more selflessly, more honestly, and more courageously because no matter what happens I can fall back into the arms of Love itself, knowing I am stretched by my experiences and led by a Spirit that always works to bring good things even out of my mistakes.
How different the world would be if we all realized we don’t have to strive for recognition and status in order to be worthy of love. How different our relationships would be if they were built on responding in love rather than winning or controlling.
As much as I’d like my own sons to praise me to the world and hold me in highest regard, ultimately I think I like Jesus’ way better.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.amyflorian.com/.