Adoption is a central theme in salvation history. Through Baptism, all Christians have become adopted sons and daughters of God in Jesus Christ. Saint Paul maintains, “All who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons of God; for what you received was not the spirit of slavery to bring you back into fear; you have received the spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Romans 8:14-15). Jesus Himself experienced the gift of adoption firsthand from his parents. Saint Joseph was the foster father of Jesus, serving our Lord with the gift of faithful fatherhood this side of heaven. The Blessed Virgin Mary had a unique role in salvation history as both the most generous birthmother and adoptive mother.
Mothers make difficult choices at times for the sake of their children. In the case of the Blessed Mother, she was told by St. Simeon that a sword would pierce her heart (cf. Luke 1:35). When Jesus was found after three days in the temple in Jerusalem, He told his anxious mother: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 1:49). \Mary simply contemplated and kept this plan of the Father, which would bring about a piercing sword, in her heart (cf. Luke 1:51). For the next thirty years, Jesus spent time with His foster father and birthmother in hidden obedience. \We do not know much about those silent years, but we can have no doubt that the Blessed Mother prepared herself to share the gift of her son with the world.
Mary’s heart, which pondered our Lord’s birth (cf. Luke 1:19) and the prophesy of her Son’s death (Luke 1:49), knew the significance and inestimable value of the gift of Jesus to the world. Through Mary’s intercession, the anticipation of Jesus’ hour arrived at the wedding feast of Cana as He wrought His first miracle (John 2:1-11). The gift of Jesus’ self, which transformed water into wine anticipating the transformation at the Last Supper, was a foreshadowing of the greatest gift of love: “Christ Jesus who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus willingly gave Himself for the sake of the world so that all might receive the love of the Father.
Jesus was able to give the gift of this adoption to the world because Mary was first willing to make the choice for her son to be adopted by the world for the plan of salvation: “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons [and daughters]” (Galatians 4:4-5). Mary allowed her heart to be pierced by a sword as she heroically entrusted her son to the will of humanity in order that all might be able to receive the gift of salvation. Because of this woman, Jesus was able to embrace the Messianic title as the “Son of Man.” Mary gave Jesus the gift of His human nature, which was an essential part of our salvation. In the fullness of time, Mary presented her Son to a world that would reject Him leaving Him orphaned on the cross. But in love, He predestined all people for redemptive adoption (cf. Ephesians 1:5). At His final hour, Our Lord gave Mary the vocation of becoming the adoptive mother of all of humanity: “Behold, your son” (John 19:27). St. John represented each and every one of us as he took her into his home. We became adoptive sons and daughters of God the Father and the Blessed Mother at Calvary.
Mother Mary highlights the gift of motherhood that both the birthmother and adoptive mother experience. The greatest gift that both types of motherhood share is the precious life that can bring joy to a loving home.
Pope Francis affirms the love demonstrated by adoptive parents: “Adoption is a very generous way to become parents… Those who accept the challenge of adopting and accepting someone unconditionally and gratuitously become channels of God’s love” (Amoris Laetitia, 179). From the witness of the Blessed Mother, adoptive parents can learn to be “channels of God’s love” as she is the mother of all humanity and mother of the Church. As St. John the Beloved Disciple, along with every person, became a son of the Blessed Mother, adoptive parents welcome children into their forever families out of love.
At the same time, birthmothers can imitate the joyful and generous love of Mary that allowed her Son to be adopted for the sake of the world’s redemption. Like the Blessed Mother, the hearts of birthmothers are pierced with swords of grief as they choose to love their children by placing them in the hands of an adoptive family. Mary did not give up her son, but she gave Him to the world that we all might experience salvation. Jesus was able to offer the grace of redemption to the world because His birthmother gave Him the gift of humanity. Birthmothers demonstrate what unconditional love looks like as they make the choice of adoption for their children that they might give a better life to their baby and to bring joy to an adoptive family.
There are many families that experience the gift of children because of the selfless gift of countless birthmothers. Simultaneously, there are many men and women that embrace the vocation of being an adoptive parent. Both birthparents and adoptive parents are able to turn to the Blessed Mother for her example and intercession. Her gratuitous love allowed all of us to experience the gift of adoption.
My wife and I were very blessed last year by the generous love of a birthmother that brought a beautiful baby girl into our lives after waiting almost nine years for the gift of a child. Our baby is a wonderful miracle that we hoped and prayed for over many years. She will always be a living message that God loved us first (cf. 1 John 4:19) and a witness to the great sacrifice of her birthmother. Each mother’s day, my wife and I give thanks to God for the courage of our baby’s birthmother and for the Blessed Mother’s intercession that brought this good news into our lives.
Throughout the month of May, let us turn to Mary’s intercession and ask her prayers for all mothers, both living and deceased. Every Mother’s Day we can rejoice that Jesus chose Mary as our adoptive Mother above. The Blessed Mother is a perpetual reminder that both birthmothers and adoptive mothers give the precious gift of life and love.