+J.M.J+

MARY'S SINLESS LIFE


Definition

As God preserved Mary from acquiring original sin, so He preserved her by His grace from ever committing a sin during her life.  This teaching essentially follows from the last.

How This Teaching Exalts Christ

As with the Immaculate Conception, this teaching shows that Jesus' holiness demanded that He be born of a holy, consecrated woman, and that He can save to the uttermost, even preserving His servants from committing sin.

Biblical Basis

Essentially the same as with the Immaculate Conception.  The New Eve, like the first Eve, began her life sinless.  But whereas the first Eve lost her sinlessness through disobedience, the New Eve retained it all her life by the grace of God.  Thus she fittingly parallels Christ the New Adam, Who remains sinless even though the first Adam fell.

Had Mary ever committed a sin during her life, she would not have been an enemy of the devil or a holy vessel; thus her Immaculate Conception would have been in vain!  God had filled her with grace, which helped preserve her from committing sin throughout her life.

Early Christian Witness

The quotes in the last article indicate that Mary was completely removed from sin, both original and actual.  So they apply here as well.

Objections

Note: The last article, on the Immaculate Conception, answered most objections regarding Mary's sinlessness.  The following just address a few remaining questions as to whether she sinned during her life.

  1. How could Mary be sinless when she sinned at Cana (John 2:3-4)?

    Jesus granted Mary's compassionate request that Jesus help the young couple (John 2:5-11).  The Bible says that God does not grant sinful requests (John 9:31; James 4:3), so her request could not have been sinful.

  2. But she did sin in asking Jesus to reveal Himself publicly before His time.

    That is not a sin, otherwise anyone throughout history who longed for the Second Coming would have been guilty of a sinful desire!  Besides, Mary is not omniscient; she did not know it was not yet time.  She was essentially asking Jesus "Perhaps this is a good opportunity for you to reveal yourself publicly?".  When He indicated it was not she did push for it, but arranged for the miracle to be performed in secret.  Had she disobeyed his wish to keep it quiet, she would have been sinning!  The fact that she did not further shows that she is submissive to the will of God.

  3. Didn't Mary lose her faith in Jesus during His ministry (Mk 3:21, 31)?

    The text does not say that, and the very notion is absurd.  Here is why:

    Mary had seen an angel from heaven, who told her that she would bear a Son without having relations with a man. She knew such a thing was naturally impossible (Luke 1:34), yet she believed and it happened to her!  This was clearly a miracle of God, which she experienced in her own body!

    Based solely on the angel's message, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  There she found that Elizabeth was pregnant, as the angel had said - a confirmation of his words.  Then Elizabeth suddenly prophesied, displaying knowledge of Mary's pregnancy and the identity of her Child which she could not have known except by divine revelation.  Another clear miracle!  Mary praised God for this wonder (Luke 1:46-53), in words which are full of faith in Him.

    Mary's betrothed, Joseph, then had this miraculous dream revealing to him the divine nature of her pregnancy - yet another confirmation from God for Mary!  She heard the shepherds tell of how they saw myriad's of angels singing praises at Jesus' birth.  She marvelled at Simeon's prophecy of Jesus' future.  She never forgot any of these wonders; the Bible clearly states that she "treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Lk 2:17; 51).

    She saw the Wise Men come from a distant land to adore her Son, drawn by a mysterious star.  She witnessed firsthand the fulfillment of every Messianic prophecy in her Son.  She lived with God Incarnate for thirty years; prayed with Him daily and talked with Him of heavenly things for three whole decades!!!

    She even instigated His first miracle at Cana, and witnessed Him change common water into the finest wine.

    After all that, how could she possibly lose faith in Him?

    Mark 3:31 may refer to His other relatives (but see Objection #6 below) who did not believe in Him during His ministry (Jn 7:5).  They had not witnessed all these miracles or received the divine revelations, as Mary did. In contrast to them, Our Lady is the exemplar of discipleship.  She did not always completely understand the ways of God (Lk 1:34; 2:33, 50), but she pondered them in her heart and clung to her faith, even at the foot of the Cross.  She followed her Son till the very end, and is numbered among His followers in the Upper Room at Pentecost (Acts 1:14).

    Mary was Jesus' Mother; she knew Him better than anyone other human being. S he did not - could not - lose faith in Him after all that God had done in her life.  Though others doubted, Mary never stopped believing in her Son; she knew Him too well!

  4. I still believe Mark 3:21 clearly shows that Mary did lose faith in her Son, along with the rest of His family.

    Here is what Mark 3:21 actually says:

    "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him:  for they said, He is beside himself". (KJV) -OR-

    'And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, "He is beside himself."' (RSV)

    This verse does not say "His Mother said he was beside himself", nor that she lost her faith.  In fact there is no explicit reference to Jesus' Mother in Mark 3:21 at all.  She was not the only member of His family!  Scripture does not "clearly" show any alleged sin on her part at all.

    This argument appears to be as follows: Jesus' family said He was crazy, His Mother is a member of His family, ergo His Mother must have said He is crazy.  But this is a logical fallacy.

    The Bible elsewhere tells us that, when Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane, "All the disciples forsook him and fled" (Matthew 26:56, Mark 14:50).  So if we apply your logic here, we could say "All of Jesus' disciples forsook Him, St. John was one of those disciples, therefore St. John forsook Him as well".  But the Bible tells us that John, the beloved disciple, was at the foot of the Cross (John 19:26-27).  He evidently did not go into hiding with the other Apostles.

    So such reasoning just does not work.  A general statement about a group of people does not always apply to every member of the group.  There can be exceptions, such as St. John among the Apostles, and, I would submit, the Blessed Virgin among Jesus' relatives.  Unlike the rest of His relatives, she knew Who He was, and so could never have thought He had lost His mind.

  5. His mother and brothers were only human; they did not believe in Him because they did not understand at the time what God was doing in their son or brother's life.  Why, if one apostle betrayed him, the others deserted him and his own hometown rejected him, should his family be any different?

    But of course he did have one faithful Apostle, St. John, and even though His cousins didn't believe in Him at first (John 7:5), He had one family member who remained faithful all along: His Mother.  She had a better understanding of God's plan than the rest of His family because of the Annunciation, Visitation, etc.

  6. But if his own family thought him insane; then we can assume that perhaps his parents, the heads of the family, had lost faith in Him at some point.

    No, we cannot assume that. Other family members could well have acted without Mary's support.

    Also, if you go back to the original Greek text of Mark 3:21, you will find that St. Mark did not use the Greek word for "kinsman" (suggenes), or "family" (patria) or even "household" ("oikeios" or "oikianos") to refer to those who went to seize Jesus.  Instead, he uses the phrase "hoi par autou", which literally means "those with him".  This term refers to ones companions, not specifically to relatives.

    This is why, if you look up Mark 3:21 in different Bible translations, you'll see that many call them Jesus' "friends" or "his own people" rather than "relatives" or "family".  This is because the original Greek does not specify relatives.

    So those who came to get Jesus may not have even been His family!  I think the translators who render "hoi par' autou" as "family" or "relatives" are assuming that vs 21 is related to the events in vvs 31-35. That need not be the case.

  7. But what if that were the case?

    Well, even if "those with Him" were His relatives, and were the same group mentioned in verse 31-35, it still does not prove that Mary did not believe in Jesus. She may have gone along, not because she approved of their actions, but to try to keep the situation calm, to reconcile this family squabble by offering guidance and restraint, lest it got out of hand.

    Nowhere does the Bible say that Mary ever lost her faith in her Son.  You could search the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you would never find a verse saying "even His mother did not believe in Him". Considering all she knew about His identity and mission, to think that she could lose faith in Him is absurd. His other relatives, however, had not been present at the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, etc., so they did not have as full knowledge as she had.  This explains their unbelief.

    You are reading too much into these verses by insisting that Mary thought her Son, Whom she knew beyond doubt was the Messiah, had lost His mind.  They say nothing of the sort!

  8. But didn't she lose her faith at Calvary (John 19:25-27)?

    There is no evidence whatsoever of that in Scripture.  In fact her courage to stand at the foot of the Cross seems to indicate the opposite.  You are again reading too much into this passage.

  9. The Bible does not say that Jesus appeared first to His relatives after His Resurrection.  But He did eventually appear to his brother James, and on the Day of Pentecost His mother and brothers were among His followers in the Upper Room.  This seems to indicate that His whole family came to believe in Jesus only after His Death and Resurrection.

    Yet Mary was present at the foot of the Cross with those who believed in Him.  This shows that she had faith in Him even in that dark hour.

    Jesus didn't only appear to people who believed in Him; He appeared to St. Thomas the Apostle, though he didn't believe that Christ had risen (John 20:24-29).  St. Matthew, recounting one of His post-resurrection appearances, writes:  "And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted." (Mt 28:17).  So Jesus did not make faith in Him a prerequisite for post-resurrection appearances.

  10. St. Basil the Great, one of the Church Fathers, wrote that Mary doubted when she heard the prophecy of Simeon and at Calvary.

    This was his personal speculation; it is not universally taught by all the Fathers.  However, even if he were correct, the fact remains that a doubting thought, in and of itself, is not necessarily a sin. It can be a temptation, but temptation is not a sin for the one tempted.  If one resists the temptation by immediately striving to remove the doubt by prayer and/or study, then no sin is committed. Only if the doubt is deliberately entertained does it become sinful. So Mary could well have experienced a momentary doubt, then turned to God in prayer and did away with it, and she would have committed no sin. Again, though, this is St. Basil's speculation; Mary also may have never doubted at all, especially considering all that God had revealed to her about her Son.

  11. Another Church Father, St. Cyril of Alexandria, wrote that Mary experienced doubt and discouragement at the foot of the Cross, and St. John Chrysostom, yet another Father, also wrote that Mary sinned.

    As with St. Thomas Aquinas' denial of the Immaculate Conception, these Fathers were permitted to hold this as a personal opinion since they lived before Mary's sinlessness became a dogma.  In retrospect, they were mistaken in their belief.  Again, the notion that Mary sinned was not universally taught by the Church Fathers; a few thought she did, while others such as Sts. Augustine and Ephraim the Syrian taught that she was sinless.  So belief that Mary committed sin is not part of Sacred Tradition, and never was the official teaching of the Church.

  12. It's not fair that everyone else has to struggle against the flesh but Mary is spared!

    I am sure that every Christian wishes she or he did not have to deal with sin, so it is understandable that some might be tempted to jealousy over Mary's prerogative or think it "unfair".  Yet we should resist that temptation, for jealousy over the spiritual state of another is itself a sin against the Tenth Commandment!

    Is God "unfair" in preserving Mary and not us?  "O man, who art thou that repliest against God?...Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?" (Romans 9:20-21).  This passage refers to God's dealings with Israel and the Church, yet it applies in this case as well.  God can do as He wills with us and we have no right to question Him.  If He chooses to exempt one human being from all sin - original and actual - by the merits of Jesus, He has every right to do so.

  13. Was Mary free from temptation as well?

    If the God-Man, Jesus Christ, had to endure temptation, then surely a mere creature like Mary was not spared such trials! The Devil, who tempted the first Eve, undoubtably tried to get the New Eve to sin as well.  Yet unlike her foremother, Mary always relied on God's grace to resist, so she never gave in.  This is not impossible (I Co 10:13).  Adam and Eve did not have to disobey God; they could have resisted, but did not.  Mary, by her reliance on God, triumphed where her forebears had failed.

    As mentioned in the last article, Mary most likely did not know that she was sinless.  She may have experienced periods of spiritual dryness as we all do, and feared that she had unknowingly offended God somehow (when in reality God was simply testing her faithfulness).  She loved God with all her heart, soul, mind and strength, so she greatly feared offending Him.  Therefore her sinlessness does not necessarily rule out temptation and spiritual struggle.


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