Three Humble Mothers, Three Sons Who Changed the World

In the week leading up to Christmas, as we awaited the birth of the Christ Child in a humble stable in Bethlehem, the daily readings focused on God’s choice of three simple, unsophisticated women to be mothers whose sons would change history.

Hannah, Mother of Samuel

Hannah prayed to God for a son, and in humble trust, she promised that if God granted her wish she would dedicate her son to the Lord.  God heard her prayer, and Hannah gave birth to Samuel.  Hannah loved him and cared for him, but she remembered her promise—and when Samuel was old enough, she took him to the prophet Eli at theTemple.

Living in the Temple, Samuel grew to know and love God.  Samuel was a judge—the last of the Hebrew judges.  He was also the first of the major prophets who began to prophesy inside the land of Israel, and he anointed Israel’s first two kings:  Saul and David.  He was thus at the cusp between two eras in salvation history. 

Elizabeth, Mother of John the Baptist

Elizabeth was a descendant of the high priest Aaron, the wife of Zacharias, and the cousin of Mary.  In their long marriage, Elizabeth had failed to conceive; but when she was old, an angel told Zacharias in a dream that Elizabeth would bear a son, and that they should name him John.  You know the rest of the story:  John didn’t believe the angel, and so was struck dumb.  It was only after John was born and Zacharias confirmed by writing on a tablet that “His name is John” that his speech was restored. 

John was the first to acknowledge the presence of the Savior here on earth when the pregnant Mary came to visit and John—still a developing fetus—leapt in the womb of his mother Elizabeth.  John grew to be a great prophet who announced the coming of the Messiah.  He went out into the desert, where he lived on locusts and honey and preached the coming of the New Covenant. 

John baptized his followers in the Jordan River.  When his cousin Jesus arrived on the shores of the Jordan, John first protested that he was unworthy to even untie Jesus’ sandal; but at Jesus’ insistence, he baptized the Lord.  He was present for the first manifestation of Jesus’ ministry—as the Father spoke from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus as a dove. 

Mary, Mother of Jesus

Mary, too, had a Son Who changed the world.  Conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was fully God and fully man.  From his earliest years, Mary understood that he was special—but the first example of this is found in the gospel when Jesus is lost for three days and his parents find him talking with the high priests in the Temple.  “Did you not know,” Jesus asked, “that I must be about my Father’s business?”

Preserved from all sin in order to be the holy mother of God, Mary was an example of perfect humility. 

Three women, each modeling a humility so pure, so pleasing to God’s heart.  Contemporary mothers can learn much from their example.

Litany of Humility

By Rafael Cardinal Merry delVal (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…