Writing about Mary as the Mother of God, St. Anselm wrote, “Wonder of wonders… There is nothing equal to Mary; only God is greater than Mary.” What is the basis for this greatness of the Mother of God?
In my ministry of accompanying young men in formation for consecrated life and priesthood here in the Philippines, I am struck by how I easily and effectively connect with many of them when it comes to dealing with the inevitable pains, temptations, and struggles that come from attachment to family. Many of them came from poor backgrounds and their families were looking forward to their getting good paying jobs and then supporting the family materially. Though their families are in need of their presence and support, these men chose this path of poverty, chastity, and obedience in imitation of Christ Jesus and in service to Him in His Church, choosing to love those whom God will place in their path wherever they found themselves.
I have come to realize that I can empathize and journey with them easily because God had somewhat prepared me for this humble ministry to these courageous and self-sacrificing young men. I know from personal experience what it feels like to make such a decision when my family needed my presence and support. I am not a stranger to temptations and struggles that come from choosing to follow the poor, chaste and obedient saviour and having to endure the painful reality that somehow I could not help loved ones out financially as I would love to. I have learnt the often painful but important lesson of complete surrender of family to God. Realizing that God had prepared me for this ministry by my past painful experiences fills me with hope that God will sustain me to the end and will surely reward me for being faithful to this call.
That is the basis for Mary’s own greatness in her relationship with God – God invited and prepared her to be His own faithful Mother and Mary allowed God to prepare her, sustain her and reward her for her own faithfulness. God prepared Mary to be the Mother of the Word Incarnate by preserving her from original sin and from inclination to sin. Mary responded by living a life of perfect holiness. God prepared her by making her full of grace and she responded by growing in this grace by lovingly obeying the divine will at each moment. God prepared her to be the Virgin Mother of His only begotten Son by inspiring in her the ideal of virginity at a time when all the young Jewish maidens were longing to be the chosen mother of the expected messiah. The simplicity and hiddenness of the Annunciation event prepared her to peacefully accept the poverty of the infant’s birth in a cold manger.
In addition to the interior strength that God gave her, God also strengthened and sustained Mary through many exterior means throughout her life. The words of Elizabeth, “Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should visit me?” surely strengthened the strong faith of the young virgin mother in the majesty of the one who dwelt in her womb. The words of the shepherds in today’s Gospel about the angels’ message to them surely strengthened Mary’s faith as she faced the mystery of having the God-Man being born in a manger. The beloved disciple would provide needed support for her at the foot of the Cross.
How did God reward her for her faithfulness? He increased her intimacy with Him until it climaxed at her glorious Assumption and Coronation as Queen of heaven and earth. Didn’t Jesus promise us that we will grow in intimacy with the Triune God through our loving deeds: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”(Jn 14:23) Mary thus merited an increasing closeness to God through all the loving actions that she performed for the Word Incarnate from the moment He was conceived in her womb. This is how she became great in her relationship with God.
St. Paul reminds the Galatians that God sent His Son to us, “born of a woman.” This woman, Mary, responded to this call of greatness and became the worthy Mother of God. Like Mary, we too are called to be great in our relationship with God too as His children, “As proof that we are sons, God sent the spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!” God is also preparing us for this greatness now, sustaining us too and will reward us for our complete response. We will tend towards this greatness if we have a heart for true greatness like Mary: “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Mary’s heart reflected on all things in her life and in the world, good and bad, joyful and sorrowful, to see how God was preparing her through these things, how He was sustaining her and how He was rewarding her.
As we begin this New Year, we should spend time reflecting on the past year in imitation of Mary’s heart for greatness. How is God preparing us for the future through the challenges of the present? How has He prepared us in the past for what we are facing now in life? How are we allowing God to sustain and strengthen us with His love and graces in the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession? How are our spiritual battles of today preparing us to be spiritual pillars for others tomorrow? How are we allowing Him to sustain us through others in the events of daily life? How are we seeking our rewards in God’s own peace and strength and not in material and worldly things? No matter what the past year has been like, God continues to sound out loud and clear His call to us to be great in our relationship with Him.
This call to greatness is renewed for us in the Eucharist we share in today. Jesus Christ, the God-Man, Son of God and Son of Mary, wants to share His own privileged relationship of divine sonship with us weak and sinful people. We do not need to be perfect or sinless now to enter into this relationship. All that we need is a heart for true greatness like Mary’s, a heart that responds in all things, knowing that, no matter what the past has been, God is constantly preparing us and sustaining us now to bring us to share more deeply in His own greatness.
I wish you all a Happy New Year, a 2015 lived with a heart for true greatness like Mary’s.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honour to Mary!!!