Tuesday of the Third Week of Ordinary Time
The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house. Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.” But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mary is aeiparthenos. It’s a Greek word: aeiparthenos. It is among the titles that are given to Mary such as Theotokos, which means God-bearer. Aeiparthenos means that Mary is Ever-virgin. This doctrine, that Jesus is Mary’s only son, can be put into question by Gospels like today’s. The Mother of Jesus and his brothers… Your mother and your brothers and your sisters…who are my mother and brothers…here are my mother and brothers. This word “brothers and sisters” has caused some people to think Mary had more children than Jesus. That is simply not the case. Mary had only one child.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 499, 500 and 501 explains what it means that Mary is aeiparthenos: ever-virgin. She was virgin before Jesus was conceived in the womb, virgin during the birth of Jesus and a virgin after Jesus was born. Mary never lost her physical integrity. Her virginity signifies that she has always been solely dedicated to the person of Jesus Christ.
The word “brothers and sisters” in Hebrew does not necessarily refer to a biological brother or sister as it primarily does in English. The word in Hebrew has a much broader context of a ‘family member.’ The word for brother or sister in Hebrew refers to ‘cousins.’ Even in English the word brother can refer to something other than a biological relation, such as ‘my brother priests.’ The reference of brothers and sisters in relation to Jesus does not mean that these are his biological siblings.
The Church insists on the fact that Mary is aeiparthenos, ever-virgin. The reason why is because it points to the central role of Mary in the entire plan of God’s salvation. God chose to have Jesus become man through a virgin. God chose for Mary to give birth to Jesus. And ever since Mary gave Jesus to the world in birth she continues that same action to our own day: she brings Jesus to birth in the world. Mary has a role in God’s divine plan of salvation. She has a job. Her job is to give Jesus to the world.
When we intercede to Mary she always gives us her Son. And Mary’s role in the plan of salvation was extended beyond the conception and birth of Jesus, it included his suffering and death as well. This was foretold by Simeon: “You yourself a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare.” Simeon prophesied that Mary will have a share in Jesus’ suffering in the same way that she had a role in Jesus’ birth. That prophecy came to fulfillment when she was standing at the foot of the cross. When she was standing at the foot of the cross she participated in the seven swords of sorrow of her Son being sacrificed for the salvation of our souls.
So Mary has a central role in accompanying Jesus in the salvation of souls. In other words, Mary’s virginity sets her apart to be accompany Jesus in his work of saving our souls. This is the very reason why the CCC and Church fathers call Mary the New Eve. Mary is aeiparthenos because she is solely attached to Jesus, her only focus, so that she can continually give Jesus to the world. And just as there was an Adam and Eve at the fall, with Mary, she is the New Eve who accompanies the New Adam at the restoration of humankind.
Jesus did not have more biological siblings. He was the only son of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But we can take Mary as our spiritual mother and have her bring Jesus into our life.