The Church has traditionally set aside the month of May in honour of Mother Mary. Here, as we ponder a bit more about where Mary fits in the life of faith, I would like to explore the idea of Mary as the model disciple under three aspects: Praying, Preaching and Pointing. When we look at all these three aspects, we can endeavour to learn from and better imitate Mary.
We see Mary at prayer in Luke 1:26-38. We find Mary “pondering” and “storing” things up in her heart. At the Annunciation, we are told that Mary was greatly troubled when Angel Gabriel called her “full of grace” and responded by “pondering” what it meant.
Again, when the shepherds came to see the Child Jesus and recounted the sign the angel told them of, we are told that Mary responded by “treasuring these things in her heart and pondering them.”
Also after Mary lost and found Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem and He went down to Nazareth with them, we find Mary “treasuring these things in her heart”.
The question is what is Mary doing in all these scenes? The answer is simple – she was praying. Some of us may not think of that as we tend to associate prayer with something that is predominately spoken or sung. However prayer is at its essence also about being meditative or contemplative, praying in silence. Yet that is what Mary was doing. In response to these unbelievable events, she did not exclaim or shout for joy. She did not say anything. Instead she turned inward in silence and pondered over them.
Through Mary’s manner of prayer, we too learn to develop for ourselves a silent contemplative prayer to have an intimate walk with Jesus. There is an awareness that He lives in us, we can speak to Him and listen to Him in our hearts. That was what Mary had and that is what we can have if only we want it and ask for it. It is in prayer that Mary shows herself to be a true disciple.
Not many people think of Mary as a preacher. However, she did preach and preached very well. In Luke 1:39-56, we find the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth where Elizabeth spoke those prophetic words to Mary. Notice how Mary responded. It is not simply a prayer but Mary preaching to Elizabeth. Mary is witnessing to others about the saving mystery of God in the world. She calls God my Saviour.
Mary also mentioned several things that God has done in the world. “He has done great things for me… He has scattered the proud hearted. He has filled the hungry with good things.” All these are instances of God’s action in the world and Mary stood before Elizabeth and boldly proclaimed them to her. Though it is not in front of thousands of people in Jerusalem like Peter’s sermon or in front of philosophers in Athens like Paul’s speech, it is nonetheless a form of preaching.
Let us not forget that God often asks us to preach in little ways. These could include a kind word to a stranger, a correction to a friend who is leading us astray or proclaiming confidently to someone that we are Catholics and that we are proud of it. That was how Mary preached in her own simple way. Through her preaching, we learn that no matter how small the task is, we ought to proclaim Jesus boldly in it. We also learn that when we choose to follow Jesus and to share about Him to the world, it involves the willingness to be small and to do small things with a big heart for God.
For us, that should be impetus for us to get to better know our faith. If we want to share the truth of Christ with others, we must first think what we are going to tell them and what they need to hear. If we can’t answer these questions, then we won’t be as effective as we could be in sharing about Christ to others.
Remember that Mary was always focused on God. She said “My soul glorifies the Lord.” She rejoiced in God “for He has looked on the humble handmaid.”
Finally, Mary was always pointing to God – “He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is His name.” This is particularly evident in her famous words when the wine ran out at the wedding at Cana, she said to the servant “Do whatever He tells you.” (John 2:5). Note that Mary did not speak another word after that in the Gospel.
After that Mary appeared at the cross, without a word. Thus, Mary has left us with a command which was to obediently follow Jesus.
Again, when we think of Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, it is through her pointing that we learn that to be a disciple of Jesus is to live a life always with reference to Him. Mary’s whole life, her existence, is a constant reference or pointing to Jesus. Likewise, when we meditate on the mysteries when we pray the Rosary, Mary helps us there to think about the life of Jesus and to ponder on how we can be a witness to Jesus.
While Mary leaves us with a sure way of being a disciple of Jesus, it may not be the easiest of paths as it involves a lot of sacrifices on our part – be it changing our behaviour, our likes and dislikes, our friends, our jobs, etc. However, we are reminded to never give up or lose heart for whatever God asks of us. For if our hearts are willing, he will give us the grace to carry out His will. n
Stella currently serves in the Pastoral Care Team in the Church of the Blessed Sacrament and the Legion of Mary in the Church of the Holy Cross. She also contributes articles for Spotlight, a monthly newsletter published by the Church of the Blessed Sacrament.