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The Reformer as Son – Luther and his Mother (May 20, 1531)

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This is the victor, the true hero, who thus gives and consigns to me his victory: “Be of good cheer!” I shall remain by him, I shall cling to his word and consolation, no matter whether I stay here or journey yonder, for he does not lie to me. Your false terror would gladly deceive me and tear me from this victor and savior with lying thoughts. But they are all lies, just as certainly as it is true that he has overcome you, and has commanded us to be comforted.

Saint Paul also boasts in this way and defies the terror of death: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” You can terrify and provoke like a wooden image of death, but you have no power to destroy. For your victory, sting, and power have been swallowed up in the victory of Christ. You may bare your teeth, but you cannot bite. For God has given us victory over you, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, praise and thanks be to him, Amen.

Let your heart concern itself, dear Mother, with such words and thoughts, and none other, and may you be thankful that God has brought you to such knowledge and has not left you mired in the Popish error that taught us to rely on our works and the holiness of monks, and to regard this one consolation, our Savior, not as a comforter, but as a cruel judge and tyrant, so that we had to flee from him to Mary and the saints, and could not look to him for any grace or comfort.

But now we know otherwise of the boundless goodness and mercy of our Heavenly Father, [we know] that Jesus Christ is our mediator and throne of grace, our bishop in heaven before God, who daily intercedes on our behalf, and atones for all who believe only in him and call upon him, and [we know] that he is neither a judge nor cruel, except to those who do not believe in him or who fail to accept his comfort and grace, and that he is not the man who accuses or threatens us, but rather the one who atones for us and intercedes on our behalf through his own death and blood, which was shed for us, so that we shall not fear him, but rather move toward him with all certainty and call him: Dear Savior, you sweet comforter, you faithful bishop of our souls etc.

To such knowledge (I say) God has graciously called you, of that you possess his seal and letter, namely the Gospel, baptism, and the sacrament, as you hear preached, namely, so that you shall have no trouble or danger. Be of good cheer, then, and give thanks with joy for such great grace! For he who has started this with you will also end it graciously. For we cannot help ourselves in such matters, we cannot do anything to ward off sin, death, and the devil with our works, for this [purpose] another appears in our stead and for our sake, one who can do it better, who gives us his victory and commands us to accept it, and not to question it, and who says: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world;” and again: “I live, and you too will live, and no one shall rob you of your joy.”

The Father and God of all consolation bestows upon you through his Holy Word and Spirit a solid, joyful, and grateful faith, so that you may blessedly overcome this and all danger, and may once and for all taste and experience that what he says of himself is true: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” And with this I commend your body and soul to His mercy, Amen.

All your children and my Käte pray for you as well. Some weep, some dine and say: “Grandmother is very sick. God’s Grace be with us all, Amen.”

On the Sunday after Ascensionis Domini, MDXXXI
Your loving son
Mart. Luther

Source of original German text: "Luther an seine Mutter Margarethe verw. Luther (20. Mai 1531)," in D. Martin Luthers Werke. Weimarer Ausgabe (Sonderedition). Part 3: Briefwechsel. Vol. 6, pp. 103-06.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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