How can God love everyone the same?

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A painting of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre is seen in a museum at the cathedral in Santiago de Cuba. Photo: CNS/Nancy Phelan Wiechec
A painting of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre is seen in a museum at the cathedral in Santiago de Cuba. Photo: CNS/Nancy Phelan Wiechec

It is the end of Mother’s Day, and as I go to kiss Naomi goodnight she wants to know how God can love everyone the same and not his own mother a little bit more than everyone else?

And mustn’t he have always loved Mary more since he made her to be born without original sin? Why did he make only her special and not all of us?

Wow, what a question to hit me with at bedtime on a Sunday night! Where to start?

I answer simply, with a glance at the clock, that God does love everyone but someone had to be chosen to be Jesus’ mother, and that happened to be Mary. Kind of like a lotto, really, and it’s pretty late, so ‘goodnight’.

But, no, that doesn’t really satisfy her, and fair enough, too, as I realise even as it leaves my mouth that it’s a pretty dismissive thing to say about Our Lady and on Mother’s Day, too!

Naomi has that little frowny crinkle between her eyebrows which tells me she is really puzzling over this problem and not just angling to extend bedtime.

How can God love everyone the same, and yet have a mother and not have a special love for her?

And if he does love her more than the rest of us, then isn’t God a bit unfair?

Congratulations, I wanted to say, this points to two paradoxes at the centre of our Catholic faith, that God is one and three persons, and Jesus is both God and a man.

But instead I had a second go at a satisfying answer, briefly recounting God’s Trinitarian nature and wrapping it up with Jesus’ own assurance that whoever hears his words and obeys them are his mother, brother, or sister.

In other words, we can all be as close to him as his own mother if we live the way he taught us to.

But even as I was doing this on-the-spot theology-for-kids, in the back of my mind I was getting a sense of a better answer, which I might give her another time she’s in the mood for one of these discussions.

It’s this: God doesn’t love Mary more than the rest of us, in a favouritism sort of way. It’s the other way around. God shows his great and perfect love for us in his choice of Mary to be our co-redeemer. Mary is loved for herself, yes, but also for us. And once we know this it inspires in us a particular, grateful, love for Mary.

Meanwhile, Mary’s love for us and God is perfect because of who she is.

Love is always unitive, never divisive.

How different God’s love works to the way we tend to think about love. With us it’s often ‘either this or that’ but with God it’s often ‘both this and that’.