Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Called to be like Mary

“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”

As Catholics we are often chastised for our devotion to Mary by other religious groups. We truly treasure Marian devotions and doctrines that some non-Catholics do not. So, who do we honor Mary so highly? Well, I think it is because the Catholic Church is trying to tell the full story, to proclaim the full gospel. Without Mary, you cannot tell the whole story of salvation. Today we celebrate this Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. After what tradition tells us were 72 years of life on earth, Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. Since Mary was conceived without original sin, so that she might be properly prepared to be the Mother of God, she did not suffer the same fate as the rest of us with Original Sin – she was immediately assumed into heaven body and soul. Mary becomes the first to be raised in Glory – the same thing that we all hope for.

The key to today’s feast is not these theological technicalities, rather the key is where do we place Mary in our spiritual life? What do we think of when we think of the Mother of God? Mary is the best example to us of what it means to be a Christian, of what it means to hear the Word of God and to respond to that word with obedience – no matter the cost. Mary was not only full of grace, but she lived her vocation gracefully. I know in my own life when I envision Mary, it isn’t in the way that our statues and icons and other religious images see her. You know what I mean – the peaceful look on her face, wearing the flowing robes of white and blue, quite literally floating on a cloud. Looking at those images, it is hard to believe this woman ever uttered a word.

Rather, the more I come to know Mary in prayer, what I see is a Mom in the ancient middle East, probably working hard all day long taking care of her husband and son, faithfully doing all of the ordinary things that life demanded of her. That is the example that Mary offers – she shows us how to find grace; to find God in the ordinary things of living and that’s where we can draw the biggest strength from Mary.

Yes, Mary had the profound courage to respond “yes” to the angel. But, that was just the first moment. Mary’s job was not done after she said “yes.” We know Mary was born without sin – quite unlike anyone else who ever lived – and you would think that after she finished her mission she’d be done and go back to God. But, she did not. She not only raised her son, she not only followed him during his ministry, she not only endured the piercing of her heart by watching her son be cruelly tortured and killed by the very people he came to save, but after Christ died, Mary went on. Mary became the spiritual mother to all of the disciples of her son. Mary became their strength, their guide. Mary became the one to constantly link Jesus followers back to her Son. Mary was there in the upper room when the Holy Spirit descended upon the followers. Mary continued on to help spread the Gospel, to give witness to a life dedicated to God, to help establish what would become the Church. Tradition holds that Mary made it as far as Ephesus and it was there that she died.

This can say a lot to us today. For those of us who have been walking the Christian journey for some time – do we ever take the attitude that our job, our ministry, is done? Do we sit back on our laurels and think we’re all set? I had my big God-moment and now I can glide the rest of the way? Maybe for those who are younger on the Christian journey, you might look at what Christ places before us and think “I’m not up to the challenge of being a Christian.”

Regardless, look at Mary and see her life – she believed in the potential of God to do anything, anything when the angel came to her, she was grace filled, she was passionate and she kept on going. Mary trusted that God’s plan would unfold in her life. After the birth of Jesus, or perhaps once He reached adulthood, you’d think she was done, but instead God allowed her to live an ordinary life – filled with extraordinary leadership. Another reason why we Catholics are so devoted to Mary is because we recognize that we are not only called to be another Christ in the world – but we are also called to be another Mary. If you don’t look at Mary as an example of what it means for you to be Christian, you are missing the fullness of the Gospel.

Mary came before us and gave us profound example. We are called to do what Mary has done – she trusted God, she listened to God, she responded to God’s call. And don’t forget what God asked Mary to do – she was asked to carry Christ within her and help to make him present to the world. Mary was the first to carry Christ and we celebrate her unique role as Christ-bearer. But, God asks us to do the very same thing. When we receive the Eucharist, we are like Mary. We carry Christ just as physically in our body as Mary did. And why did she carry Christ her in body, so that she could bring Christ physically into the world. And so must we. We receive the Body of Christ into our own bodies that we might become the Body of Christ in our world.

Let us look today at Mary, our mother, our model and let us be conscious at this Eucharist that we do what she did and let us help make her son truly, physically present in our world.

May God give you peace!

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