We first meet Mary in the Gospels and are given special insights particularly in the Gospel of Luke. In the first chapter of Luke, Mary encounters the angel Gabriel and, in response to God’s request of her, Mary humbly replies, “I am the handmaid of the Lord let it be done to me according to Thy word.” A handmaid is a slave or servant. Mary here is recognizing that her life is not her own. She is freely choosing to be selfless and to serve the Lord. She saw that God’s will was of greater importance than her own. What a great spiritual model for each of us!
And throughout her life Mary was a faithful disciple of Christ, loving Jesus deeply with her all of her heart, mind and strength as we are all called to do. Mary throughout her life demonstrates humility, great devotion, living with joy and surrendering herself fully to God. She is a woman of prayer and contemplation. She sees God in events great and small. Mary often faced situations where people were threatening her Son Jesus or ridiculing Him, even seeing this from those in their hometown and within their family. Mary herself likely faced persecutions being the mother of Jesus but also having become pregnant by someone other than Joseph her husband. Mary also endured the most excruciating pain and sorrow a mother can when she witnessed Jesus being scorged and beaten and then being crucified – the most horrendous, painful form of execution one can experience. Despite all that Mary suffered, she remained faithful and never waivered – she always trusted fully in God and His plan and never faltered in the love she had for Jesus.
As we reflect on her life we should also examine our own lives. How well do we ourselves surrender our lives to God? Do we live humbly and with joy, loving God deeply without waivering? When faced with pain, sorrow and persecution, what is our response? Mary is a human person just as each of us are and she is a great model of discipleship for us. She is a perfect example of what the grace of God can do in our lives if we are receptive to it and cooperate with it. Just as God’s grace perfected Mary’s nature, God’s grace can elevate and perfect us as well.
As Christians, Mary should be honored because of her obedience and love for God. Mary should be important as she is the first and best disciple of Christ and as such is a great spiritual model for us, but, even more than that, Mary always points us to Christ. When we recognize the importance of Mary we are acknowledging the even greater significance of her Son Jesus Christ. Mary is blessed because of Jesus. Mary is the Mother of God because of who JESUS is! In all that Mary did and her witness of discipleship, it was always her Son who held the higher regard. As a lighthouse is not the final destination of a ship, it is nonetheless important as it points the captain and sailors to their goal. As with Mary – her life of virtue is a good model for us but ultimately Mary always points us to her Son Jesus. It is Jesus who is the source of grace. It is Jesus who is our Savior. It is Jesus who we are to love and surrender our lives to.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen used a similar analogy about Mary. He said, “…she (Mary) is more like a magnifying glass that intensifies our love of her Son, and makes our prayers more bright and shining. God who made the sun also made the moon. The moon does not take away from the brilliance of the sun. The moon would only be a burnt-out cinder floating in the immensity of space, were it not for the sun. All its light is reflected from the sun. The Blessed Mother reflects her Divine Son; without Him, she is nothing. With Him, she is the Mother of Men.”
Being as attentive to the presence of God in our lives as Mary was, we will be able to better accept and respond to God’s will as it unfolds each day. We need to learn from Mary how to live as a truly faithful disciple. And as Mary always did, we need to reflect on God’s Word and always cooperate with God’s grace as we continue to walk in faith, hope and love towards our heavenly home.