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Why Do Catholics Call Mary the Mother of God?

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Apologetics 101: Answering your questions about the faith

Question: I have a brother who now goes to a non-denominational church, and he keeps harping on me about Catholics calling Mary the “Mother” of God.  He keeps asking me, “How can she be God’s mother?  Is she older than God?” What should I say to him?
 

A: Just tell him that Catholics are doing nothing more than what God Himself does in calling Mary His mother. The first question you ask him is this: “Is Jesus God — yes, or no?” I would hope, as a Christian, that he would say, “Yes, Jesus is God.” 

Next question you ask is: “Did Jesus call Mary his mother?”  In the Gospels, Jesus referred to Mary as “Woman” a few times, but He did not directly address her as “Mother.”  However, it is fair to say that the child Jesus undoubtedly referred to Mary as “Mother.”  So, if Jesus called Mary His mother, and Jesus is God, then God Himself referred to Mary as His mother. Why can’t we?

Now, your brother will probably say, “Nowhere in the Bible does it say the child Jesus called Mary His mother, so you can’t just assume that.” Fine. Just ask him who the primary author of Scripture is. He should say, “God is the primary author of Scripture.” Then, tell him that God, in the Bible, refers to Mary a number of times as Jesus’ “mother.” Matthew 2:13-21 refers to Mary as Jesus’ “mother” four times. Mary is referred to as Jesus’ “mother” in Luke 2:48.  At the wedding feast of Cana, John chapter 2, Mary is referred to as Jesus’ “mother” three times. Jesus saw His “mother” standing at the foot of the Cross in John 19. In Acts 1, the “mother of Jesus” was in the upper room praying with the Apostles and other disciples.  So, if the Bible calls Mary Jesus’ mother, and Jesus is God, then God Himself, through His words in Scripture, referred to Mary as His mother.  Why can’t we? 

“Well,” your brother might say, “Mary was the mother of Jesus, but not the mother of God.” First of all, I have to say that I have never understood the logic, or lack thereof, in that statement. Nonetheless, all you need to do is emphasize that Catholics are not saying that Mary is the mother of God the Father or God the Holy Spirit, we are saying that Mary is the mother of God the Son.

Luke 1:41-43, “…and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” The mother of my Lord!  Who is Elizabeth’s Lord? Using your brother’s logic, he would have to say that Elizabeth is calling just the human nature alone of the tiny in utero baby her “Lord.”  Well, he needs to answer the question, “Why is that unborn baby, in its human nature alone, Elizabeth’s Lord?”  Answer: he’s not.  Only because that tiny baby is the person of Jesus Christ, God Almighty Himself, the second Person of the Trinity, is that baby Elizabeth’s Lord.  So, that would mean Elizabeth, inspired by  the Holy Spirit, called Mary the Mother of God, since her Lord is God.

And then there is John 20:28.  Thomas says to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”  He doesn’t say, “My Lord or my God.”  My Lord “and” my God.  Again, the Lord is God.  So, again, when Elizabeth calls Mary the “mother of my Lord,” she is, in essence, calling Mary the “Mother of God.” Why can’t we? 

Finally, from Matthew 1:18, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.  When His mother Mary…”  The Bible calls Mary the mother of Jesus Christ.  So if your brother tries to say Mary is just the mother of Jesus, but not the mother of God, ask him if “Jesus Christ” — in other words, Jesus the Messiah — is God and see if he can talk around that one. 

John Martignoni is a nationally-known Catholic apologist and Bible scholar. He is the Founder and President of the Bible Christian Society, where you can find lots of free apologetics materials — CD's, mp3 downloads, e-newsletters, and more, and host of EWTN’s “Open Line” airing on Mondays at 3 p.m. EST. He is also Director of the Office of the New Evangelization in the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama.

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