"Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." Luke 1:45.
With those words, Elizabeth confirms what we already know about Mary, the mother of Jesus: that she freely, and without reservation, trusted in God. With those beautiful words we only begin to fathom the depths of Mary's faith in God. For we know that Mary had all the reason to question and doubt the news as revealed in Luke 1:35.
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God."
As the mother of Jesus, we know that Mary had a tremendous responsibility placed upon her. Her future, our future, changed forever when she responded to the angel Gabriel, telling him that she considered herself a servant of the Lord. With the acceptance of this life-altering news Mary sets in motion a chain of events that would ultimately provide the only way in which to rectify Eve's transgression. Just as a woman freely rejected God and His will, a woman was needed to freely accept Him and His will. And in so doing, Mary agreed to bring into the world God's answer to our sins.
Upon accepting this role, and having learned of Elizabeth's pregnancy, Mary visits her cousin. It is during this stay that we are privy to Mary and Elizabeth's brief but telling conversation. In those few lines of Scripture we see the absolute love that they share for God and for His purpose in their lives. In Mary's song, often called Mary's Canticle, she gives great praise and honor to God. She recalls His hand in the lives of His people. We are again reminded of God's love toward a humble servant, any modest servant, as Mary says, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant" Luke 1:46a-48b.
Mary models for us true discipleship of Christ as well as complete obedience to the Father. With this knowledge of her character, God chose Mary to be Jesus' mother. He chose Elizabeth to bear John the Baptist and Mary to bear the Christ Child. In that way, Mary was to serve God and the greater good of God's people. Mary's life clarifies what it means to be a servant of God, what it takes to be a servant of God. She exemplifies for us how we are able to serve God through serving the greater good of all people.
Because of her gentle and unassuming demeanor, God is able to ask anything of Mary. He can count on her cooperation. And as we know He was not asking for a small sacrifice. He was ultimately asking her to sacrifice her son for all humankind. It was a great act of love. It would certainly seem that her love for God, and her love for us, was bigger than her heartache. This must have been the case for her to have survived such a tragedy. In this fashion, Mary helps us see that it is possible to get outside of ourselves and serve one another in a most glorious way. However, this is both a difficult and often unrewarding earthly task.
Nonetheless, Mary calls us to do just that. She helps us see that, in serving God, we are helping raise humanity to a level pleasing to Him, indeed, a level known by Him. We proclaim this in the "Our Father" when we say, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. When we mirror Mary's unselfishness, we are able to participate in God's plan for humankind in the most glorious of ways.
As well as being the one chosen to carry the Christ child, we should remember that Mary was Jewish. She most definitely would have enriched Jesus' life with the Jewish celebrations of Yom Kippur, Chanukah, the Sabbath, and Passover. From this perspective, the birth of Jesus provided a means for God to offer salvation to His own people. It then tied Gentiles to Jews in a deep and abiding way, as Gentiles soon began to acknowledge the Jewish Messiah as the Son of God.
Our Christian faith, then, evolved from the Jewish faith and has its origins in the faith that worshipped the one true God. For us, as Christians, He is the God who sent the Son. While Christians recognize a need to claim Jesus as Lord and Savior, we also should recognize the gift we have received from the Jewish people. Jews, like Christians, have seen persecution and intolerance for thousands of years. The Jewish people held on to the belief in the one true God while pagan nations attempted to destroy and conquer the Jewish race. Through women like Esther, Deborah, Noah's wife, and Mary, the Jewish faith survived in such as way as to bring the Messiah.
Finally, we recognize Mary as one of the first disciples. As obedient as she was to God, she was also a faithful follower of Christ. She set an example for us, showing us how to live and abide in His ways. Mary shows us what true discipleship necessitates. From her life, we know that, as disciples of Christ, there will be pain and sorrow along with joy and gladness. The depth of one allows us the full exultation of the other just as the horror of the crucifixion allowed for the glory of the resurrection. They go hand in hand.
Discipleship includes times of upheaval and periods of grace. At the heart of discipleship is the transforming love of Jesus: a love that can forever change us. It is this all-encompassing love that allows us to share in each other's lives in the richest of ways. Without love, as St. Paul tells us, we are just clanging cymbals. Jesus showed us, through His tender words and charitable deeds, how to love one another in a manner that pleases God. And, of course, Mary's love for the Father allowed us to know the Son, our only way to the Father. Through it all, Mary gives us a beautiful example of a discipleship based on such love.
Undoubtedly, there are many, many things we can do in life without love. But without love, they would all be meaningless, empty acts. We might even get very far with our egos leading the way. But nothing will change the fact that God's love, as given to us in His Son, is our only means of salvation. It all begins and ends with this devotion. It is placed before us to freely choose or reject. It is a love that Mary certainly had.
Indeed, it was Christ's love for us that allowed Him to suffer and endure death on a cross. It was God's love for us that allowed Him to consider offering up His Son for us. And it is our love for one another that allows us to be all that God intends us to be.
Like so many women whose stories are told in Scripture, Mary gives us courage to embrace God's will with enthusiasm and confidence. She shows us that being a loving servant to God means being a beacon of light to all women. She had a unique role to fill and did so with a heart full of devotion. In saying "yes" to Gabriel she said "yes" to each and every one of us.
The world gives us many ways to practice greed, envy, and trickery. We live in a society that values notoriety and fame. We are encouraged to value what is in this world while Scripture tells us we aren't even of this world. Mary, then, in the most gentle of ways, reminds us of the value of selfless love. Her benevolence helps us recognize that our very existence is, and was always intended to be, an expression of love.