Tuesday, May 09, 2006

On Mary our Role Model

When I was 14 years old I started in a High School for girls in Philadelphia. I was nervous, of course, but soon got very excited when I learned they had a music program. My biggest problem was trying to decide which instrument I wanted to learn. I finally decided on the clarinet.
When Mary was 14, an angel appeared to her and asked her if she would consent to being the mother of Jesus. At 14, she said YES. She didn't run to ask her mother or even to talk it over with her best friend or boyfriend like most teenagers would. Without hesitation, she said YES to the angel and to God, her Father. She said she would do whatever God wanted her to do. Her life from that moment on was radically changed. Mary didn't know what would be happen because she said yes. But she did know that was what she needed to do. So she did it.
OK, so once you say yes to God like Mary did you should be doing well, right? Not necessarily. God is kind of funny that way. It didn't get any easier for Mary at all. She had to tell her boyfriend that she was pregnant and that didn’t go over very well. He didn't jump up and say YES right away like she did. Mary had to quietly suffer through that. The Bible doesn't describe the conversation between 14-year-old Mary and her mother either. If you went home and told your mom that you were (or your girlfriend was) pregnant (that's shock #1!) and that her baby was going to be the Son of God (there's #2) how would you expect her to react? We can only imagine what went on in Mary's mother's heart and mind.

Young Mary didn't go back to God in prayer and say, "I'm not sure about this! Can we work this out another way?" Mary stayed committed to the YES and did what she knew she should do.
Did it get easier then? Not exactly. An angel appears to Joseph so he finally accepts the fact that Mary is pregnant with the Savior and then they travel to Bethlehem - on a donkey! Did God at least arrange for them to stay at a nice hotel? No. Not quite.
Today we complain because the HMO's only let a new mother stay in the hospital for 24 to 48 hours after giving birth. Has God asked any of you to give birth lying on hay surrounded by cows and sheep without even a mid-wife? Just picture yourself doing that!
When Mary said YES to the angel I doubt that she thought the plan would unfold quite this way. What do you think she was thinking in that stable with her baby in the manger? Remember, she was 14. Do you think she doubted herself? Was she unsure about God's will? Did Mary wonder about what her baby would look and act like? After all, she knew he was to be the Lord, the Chosen One, and the Long Awaited Messiah. Was she confused?
Wouldn't you be?
Aren't you, sometimes, confused by the way God's plan seems to unfold in your life? Do you have expectations for your family or your future that don't seem like they're being met? Let's look at Mary, our role model for saying YES to the unexpected.
If she was experiencing any doubt, fear, concern or even questioning her own adequacy, God took care of it in a very unusual way when Jesus was born. Within hours, shepherds, wise men bearing gifts and angels singing songs of praise surrounded their little stable. It's one of the few stories in the Bible where we can picture Mary smiling. They all came to see this blessed child. She hadn't even sent out birth announcements with a picture of Jesus and his weight and length on them. They all came and worshipped her child and the God who had allowed all this to happen. Mary must have smiled. And it wasn't just a smile on her face. It was a smile in her heart. If she needed confirmation, she had it then. It was after the long ride on the donkey, after not being able to find a place to live, after giving birth to the Son of God in a stable, but she had it. And she smiled straight through to her toes.
When we say YES to God, we sometimes have trouble accepting God's will as it unfolds. If we look at Mary as our role model, we may remember that we need to hang in there. She can help us to be patient, keep saying YES and wait for the big picture to come together. We may not figure things out until after it’s all over. Mary could never have dreamed that angels, shepherds and wise men would have surrounded her and Joseph and their tiny son in that stable. But God is the Author of the Book, the Singer of the Song and the Artist of the Big Picture we call life. She just waited. Patience and prayer are all that Mary had. It's what got her through it all. Like us,it was all she needed.
So then, like in the fairy tales it ended with "and they all lived happily ever after". Right? Wrong. That's not your life or my life and it surely wasn't Mary's life. St. Therese once said to God: "The way you treat your friends, its no wonder you have so few of them!" Mary really got special treatment.
Mary lost her son when he was about 12. Can anyone tell me how you say your daily prayers to God when you've lost His son? She really must have been panicking. He was missing for 3 days and when they found him did he show remorse or concern for what his mother was feeling? Do kids usually show immediate sorrow for what they’ve done? I don’t think so. So the teenager Jesus says, "Didn't you know I had to be about my Father's business?" What is Mary supposed to say to that? It must have pulled at her heartstrings. Try to feel what she was feeling. She had been taking care of this boy for 12 years. All these years he had been a relatively normal child and they lived a relatively normal life together. Then this happens. Mary remembers then, that this is God's child- not hers alone. She wasn't raising her own child.
Every mother can say that. Remember that, because you’ll probably all be parents someday. Your child is not yours alone, it's God's too. At some point, kids pull on their parent's heartstrings. Mothers learn to let go just like Mary had to that day. "She kept all these things deep in her heart," Scripture says. Mary, our role model, teaches us not to be possessive, to look for God's movements in our lives, to listen with our hearts and to be silent instead of arguing, becoming defensive or asking why.
She learned the same lesson years later. Like us, Mary had to learn some God-lessons twice. Jesus lived with his mom until he was 30. Imagine the relationship they had with each other after living together for 30 years. He never went away to college or got married. Even by today's standards when kids seem to be living at home longer and longer, by 30 they are usually living on their own. I wonder, don't you, why 30? Is that the age when real maturity sets in? Maybe it took that long for Mary to adjust to the idea. Or did God not give Jesus his mission until then? Whatever the reason, Mary had her first-born Son at home with her for most of His life. After Jesus left his home and while he was doing his public ministry, Mary went to visit her Son. He was talking to a group inside a house somewhere. The crowd tells him that his mother is outside looking for him. Does he drop everything and go to welcome her with a hug? No. Scripture doesn't say he went out there at all. Instead it is recorded that Jesus says, "Anyone who does the will of my Father is my mother and brother and sister."
Did Mary say, "You tell him to get out here and do it right now!" No, Mary knew God was working through her Son. She knew this because she was in tune with God. She knew his voice. She listened for it daily and she recognized it. She knew God was the Author of the Book and the Artist of the Big Picture. She knew her role was not to get in God's way, but to listen and say YES.
Did you learn that lesson? Do you recognize God's voice? You have to listen to hear God's voice. It's hard for me to not get upset during difficult times. It's hard to just listen to God and say YES. It's hard to step back and look and the big picture.

That's one of the lessons our role model, Mary, can teach us. She teaches us patience and prayer. She teaches us how to listen for our Father's voice because she knows that's where her strength will come from.
She teaches us a very hard lesson. The lesson she teaches us is:
How to say YES - and not to ask WHY.
This is especially evident during her Son's crucifixion. None of us will ever be asked to endure anything as painful as what Mary experienced that day. Visualize it with me, please. The first recorded scene is when she met Jesus on the road to Golgatha while he was carrying the cross. Imagine this mother looking at her son. No words are spoken between them. Put yourself in Mary's place - and if you dare, put your future child in Jesus' place just for a moment. How does his mother feel when she sees the scars the scourging left on her son's back? She can feel his blood on her hands when she hugs him and his thorny crown pierces the veil on her own head. She steps back to look at her child. They were silent, but they communicated to each other at that moment. What does your heart think they said in that one look? What are they feeling? EVERYTHING YOU WOULD FEEL.
No mother wants to see her son in pain, especially pain imposed on him by others - by the self-righteous, those who don't understand, those who don't listen or even care. Mary's heart must have broken. Tears filled her eyes. Her son's blood was on her hands and cloak.
But this is Mary and that was Jesus. There had to be another level of communication going on. It's called faith. What did Mary, the woman of faith, say to her Son? What message did she send him through her eyes and her touch? She said YES. It was the only answer she knew how to give when God was the one asking the question. She had practiced it many times over the years. YES. YES, I understand why you are doing this Jesus. Although he had to power to change it all in an instant, she knew he wouldn't. And she knew why. Mary didn't plead or beg. If she had, do you think Jesus could have refused his mother? She didn't. She didn't ask God to stop all that madness. She said YES. YES, my Son, you must do this. YES, my God, I accept your plan. Mary didn't talk or argue or beg or ask why, like you or I might have. She quietly accepted the role her Son had to play for the redemption of the world. She did that because she was a woman of faith. She was a woman who believed that God's will was more important than her own. You see, she was in tune with the voice of her Lord. She recognized it and accepted it no matter what it cost. And the cost was very high indeed. She stood at the foot of the Cross they hung him on and watched him die. He died a slow and painful death and she watched.
Eventually they took his body down from the cross and placed him in his mother's arms. She was a human being with the same feelings you and I have, so I am sure that she cried. I picture Mary drenched in rain, kneeling in the mud and caressing her dead son's body. She must have screamed in anguish. She had to have sobbed and wailed.
Mary's first YES at the age of 14 brought her to this final moment of pain.
And then it was all over. The pain, the suffering, the crucifixion and the burial. Mary had said YES to it all. She never wavered in her faith or in her love. But God being God, things never really end up the way you imagine they will. There is always a surprise. On Easter Sunday, Mary's Son Jesus rose from the dead. I can't imagine that anyone in the Gospel stories was happier that his mother. She was jubilant because her Son was alive. He was whole. He was clean. He was new. Jesus had risen from the grave. Death could not hold him. He had risen.
But she must have been happy about something else, too. She was happy that she had been faithful to God. She was happy that her YES never weakened into a "maybe" or a "Yes, but..." She had been faithful. She stood firm in her faith and believed in her God. She had prayed and listened for his voice. She had been patient and understanding. She did what God wanted her to do with her life.
And so God rewarded her with Easter Sunday. And later, God brought Mary into heaven herself to be with her Son and with him. Can you envision the scene? The quiet, peaceful, accepting woman of faith is welcomed into heaven. She is welcomed by Jesus who is at once her Son and her God.
Do you see what we have to look forward to if we are faithful? God loves each one of us and is looking forward to the day when He can welcome us into heaven with Him. There we will finally meet Jesus and Mary, the woman of faith, and we can enjoy eternity with them. That's the plan, you see. That is the big picture. That is God's will. He wants you to be with Him forever in heaven experiencing eternal joy. All we have to do is say YES and be faithful. Say YES when you wake up in the morning to whatever is in store for you that day. When hard times come -and you know they will- do what Mary did. In the midst of chaos listen for God's voice. It's always there. We may have to get really quiet to hear his gentle whisper, but it will always be there because God is faithful. Who do you think gave Mary the gift of faith to sustain her through each day? God will give you the faith you need to say YES, too. Why? Because He and Mary are looking forward to a wonderful reunion with you in heaven. They want you to say YES. They want to be with you forever. They want you to experience everlasting joy with them.

My prayer for you is that Mary will be the example you need to say YES to all that has been in your life and all that is yet to be.

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