Virgin Mary: The first disciple of Jesus Christ
Some times people feel that the Catholic Church over emphasize or even event somethings about the Blessed Virgin Mary, that was how the young Catholic who confronted me with the question about the discipleship of Mary felt. She had no problem with Mary nor with the Church’s devotion to her, she honours her with great joy as the Church does. But she was a little bit confused after reading somewhere that Mary is the first disciple of Jesus Christ; how? She wondered. She knew Mary as the mother of Jesus and not his disciple, she also knows that Jesus had twelve apostles and Mary’s name was certainly not mentioned among the twelve. So, how comes she now reads in a Catholic approved book that Mary is the first disciple of Jesus Christ?
By referring to Marry as the first disciple of Jesus Christ, the Church is not in any way trying to turn the scripture upside down; not at all. The Church knows that Jesus called twelve men to himself to be his apostles and that Mary’s name was not mentioned among them. The Church is not ignorant of this uncontestable truth. But to understand why the Church refers to Mary as the first disciple of Jesus Christ, we need to look at what happened after Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and left the circle of the twelve.
When Judas left, he had to be replaced as recorded in Acts of the apostles 1:12-26. Peter stood up and addressed the brethren, insisting that the scripture teaches that Judas’ place must be taken by another. Mary did not take the place, in fact she did not contest. Mathias was chosen to take the place.
I am actually not interested in who took the place but in the criteria used. Peter insisted that the person to take the place of Judas must be one who can stand as a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, one who was there from the very beginning; from the time of John the Baptist to the time Jesus was taken up to heaven. Which means therefore that an apostle or a disciple is one who witnessed and can stand to preach and defend what he witnessed.
Now, my question is; who was their from the very beginning? Peter talked about “from John the Baptist” but Mary was there at the incarnation. She witnessed what none of the twelve apostles witnessed, she was there at the incarnation and none of the apostles were there; probably some of them were not even born then. Mary was there at the birth of Jesus, none of the apostles were there. Mary was the first to carry the gospel message after the angels, she carried the message to Zechariah’s house. Throughout Jesus’ childhood Mary was there, she was there even before John the Baptist from where Peter claims that the witness to take the place of Judas must begin.
Now tell me, who is the first and the most qualified disciple of Jesus Christ? It is the Virgin Mary! The Church refers to her as such with a great sense of pride. She is the first disciple of Jesus yet remains his mother, she is the mother of Jesus yet remains his creature.