March 14, 2008

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Biblical women: Mary after Jesus has grown

John F. Fink(Thirty-first in a series of columns)

This is the third column in my series about Mary.

Mary’s first appearance in the Bible after Jesus has grown is at Cana, where Jesus performed his first public miracle by changing water into wine (Jn 2:1-11).

By this time, Joseph apparently has died and Mary would have been in her mid-40s.

She and Jesus had been invited to a wedding—apparently a large celebration since Mary noticed that the host had run out of wine.

When she tells Jesus about this, you get the impression that Jesus must have performed miracles at home because Mary is confident that he can do something.

She simply tells the servers, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5), the last words she speaks in the Bible. Then, as we know, Jesus did what Mary expected.

After the wedding celebration, Mary accompanied Jesus to Capernaum, where Jesus was then living with his new disciple, Peter (Jn 2:12).

We don’t know how often, if at all, Mary was with Jesus during his public life.

There is the incident when Jesus was told that his mother and brothers had come to see him. He used the occasion to say that “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mk 3:35). Presumably, he got together with his family later.

Mary was in Jerusalem during the last days of Jesus’ life, probably because she maintained the tradition of going there for Passover. It’s a bit strange that only John’s Gospel places Mary at the foot of the cross. That Gospel tells us that Jesus entrusted his mother to John while hanging on the cross (Jn 21:26-27).

The Gospels don’t tell us that Jesus appeared to his mother after his resurrection, but how can we imagine that he did not?

We know that Mary was still with Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem after his resurrection and ascension because the Acts of the Apostles says that the small community included “some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14). She apparently was there on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles.

Then Mary disappears from the Bible. What we believe about her after Pentecost comes from tradition and speculation. She probably continued to live in Jerusalem with John or James—not John’s brother, but one of those identified as the brother of Jesus who became the leader of the Church in Jerusalem.

Tradition says that Mary died at age 70, probably in Jerusalem where the Church of the Dormition is today. The Tomb of Mary is located next to the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s believed that Mary was buried there and, from there, was assumed into heaven.

But there’s also a tradition that Mary went with John to Ephesus in Turkey and died there.

I favor Jerusalem. If John went to Ephesus, I think it was after Mary’s death, which probably was around the year 50.

She would have died before Paul lived in Ephesus, and well before Paul wrote his letters to the Ephesians.†

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