The past few days I've been reflecting on Mary's role in Christ's plan of salvation--and the idea I've been turning over in my head is expressed in the headline: "Mary saves." Now, before you go apoplectic, let me be clear what I mean: it is Jesus who saves, without qualification; but our Lord has many collaborators in the work of salvation: he chose the Apostles, he founded his Church, and he calls all of us members of his Body. When we are joined to him, we are part of his work of salvation.
An example would be the angels: angels are messengers of God, and they have no other agenda but to bring God's message to humanity. So much so, that you will see in the Old Testament references to the "Angel of the Lord"; and you will see, first, someone addressing him as angel--then the text will describe a dialogue between the human and God himself. It's confusing; but one explanation would be simply this: when you are speaking to an angel who comes with God's word, you are speaking to God. If I call you on the phone, are you speaking to the phone--or to me? The answer is both. Likewise an angel.
This seems plain enough from everything our Lord said, especially in the Gospel of John, about our being one with him. It's just so breathtaking that we draw back; just as many do from the truth of the Mass and the Eucharist. Yes, he really meant it.
So what do I mean when I say--softened with quotes--"Mary saves"? I mean that Mary has been given a significant role in Christ's work of salvation. Although we must admit her role is unique in several respects, it isn't wholly so. Mary is a saint; she is a member of the Church, although the most preeminent and honored member (rightly so). That Mary received unique blessings couldn't be avoided: only one woman could be the God-bearer. But the thing about our Lady is that everything she has received she gives away; everything she has, we are meant to have too.
Our Lord's Plan was so marvelous! He planned for Mary to play many roles: she is Daughter Zion--the summation and personification of God's Beloved, who would produce a Messiah; she is the New Eve, who undoes the knot created by the first Eve's disobedience; and thus she becomes the Mother of all the living: the Eve of a New Creation. Mary continues to be a Mother, and I suppose she will, for ages unending.
And it occurred to me that our Lord was very sensible: he knew that at various points, what his people--and perhaps those he would seek to win--would need a mother. We always need Christ; but sometimes the comfort and wisdom of his Mother is just what we need. And that is who our Lord sends.
Let me give you two examples.
Recently I got called to the hospital--an emergency situation. When I arrived, the patient had been taken for a CAT scan and the husband and other members of the family were very upset. From what I could figure out, the mother had come into the hospital for a more-or-less routine procedure, and things had gone badly. When I arrived, they didn't know what was happening, and they feared the worst.
I went and found the nurse and doctor, and explained that the family absolutely wanted me to pray over her--i.e., if things went badly, they'd want me to go to her. The doctor assured me it wasn't that bad, but I think he understood the request all the same. I went back and reassured the family--and we prayed together for her. I found myself asking Mary to come and watch over this woman, and her family. As we waited, I kept asking Mary to be a comfort to the whole family.
Eventually, the woman came back--and she was still unconscious. What did that mean, the family members were asking? The doctor gave what reassurances he could--and then, after the doctor had stepped out, and the nurses had attached all the wires and so forth, I went to her bedside to pray the prayers of anointing. I imposed my hands on her head, praying silently, and then I anointed her--and I saw her eyes opening. As I finished my prayers, I mentioned it, because I didn't think the family had even seen it. The doctor came back around the point, and was very happy and encouraged the family to talk to her. Of course the scene was wild, and I stepped back out of the way. After awhile, members of the family thanked me; I answered, "Mary did it."
Here's another example, not as dramatic. Yesterday I became ill from something I ate Monday night. As the day wore on, I felt worse and worse, and very little helped (Coca Cola, Pepto Bismol, quiet). Well, these things work themselves out, of course, and after a not-very-restful night, my stomach is no longer doing flip-flops and I'm getting back to normal. But as I sat here last evening, and also during the night, I was pretty miserable and I was praying. I was asking Mary to stay with me. I am convinced she did and I certainly was glad for her watching over me.
There are times we need a mother. Mary has been given some important tasks by her son: she was sent to Tepayac to Saint Juan Diego--and as a result, the people of Mexico were won to her Son. She was sent to Fatima. She has appeared many other places; and besides all those grand assignments, she also comes and supports any number of her children in time of need.
It makes sense to me that our Lord knew that a feminine, a motherly, presence would be needed and useful in his work of salvation. I suspect we will find, when the story is told in full, that many people came to Christ first through an introduction to Mary.