Three Ways Mary Helps Us Become Better Christians
Happy New Year!
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God (“God-Bearer” or Theotokos in Greek), a title recognized since the early Church and an official dogma since the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. It is important to note that the pronouncement of Mary as Theotokos was not a late invention of the Church, but rather a ratification by Church authority (given by Christ) of ancient belief which was under threat by heretical teachings of individuals such of Nestorius.
Declaring Mary as Mother of God indeed points to the divinity of Christ, and therefore enriches our experience of the mystery of the Incarnation. With Jesus as Messiah and the heir to the Davidic Kingdom, Mary becomes the Queen Mother, as it was in David’s royal court.
But why should we honor and celebrate Mary? Isn’t that stealing focus from Jesus? Here are a few ways Mary actually helps us become better disciples of our Lord and Savior.
1) Mary is the Great Yes
When Eve disobeyed God in the garden and took the forbidden fruit, pride–the root of all sin–entered the human heart, and separated us from God’s grace. This separation is visualized when Adam and Eve hide themselves in shame as God seeks them in the garden. Adam and Eve’s collective “No” echoed throughout the human race, ripping a gulf between God and humanity.
In contrast, when God visits Mary with the angel Gabriel, she does not hide, but humbly welcomes the messenger. Gabriel announces God’s plan to which Mary, after some pious inquiry, says:
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” –Luke 1: 38
This great “Yes” by Mary is perhaps the greatest formula of faith ever uttered by humanity. Mary teaches us how to acknowledge God and acquiesce to His will, thus becoming disciples of Christ.
2) Mary Shows Us How to Trust God
Despite Mary’s inquiry, it is clear that she did not have a full understanding of her mission as Mother of God. This is evident when the shepherds shared their heavenly vision with the Blessed Family, “And Mary kept these things, reflecting on them in her heart (Luke 2: 19).” We also witness her surprise when Jesus goes missing and Mary and Joseph find him three days later attending the affairs of the Father.
Indeed, although Mary remained faithful to God, her faith in the full implications and mission of her Son grow as she walked with him to the very end. Such is the model of the Christian life. We may not know why we are in a particular situation. God’s will may confuse or place us in uncomfortable situations. We may experience great loss, but Mary’s life is a story of supreme trust in God despite all odds.
3) Mary Shows Us How to Share Jesus
As the first and greatest disciple of Christ, Mary wastes no time in executing her mission as the Mother of God. Indeed, she “makes haste (Luke 1: 39)” following Gabriel’s Annunciation and visits her cousin, Elizabeth, to tell her the news, for as Mary declared,
“The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”–Luke 1: 49
From Christ’s birth and placement in a manger (a feeding trough) to his death on the cross, Mary gradually understood that her Son was not a treasure to horde, but to share, even though it often pained her greatly. Too often we Christians personalize our relationship with Christ to the point that we forget that we receive Christ–especially in the Eucharist–so that we, like Mary, might let him grow in our hearts and then offer him to a lost and hurting world in need of the Savior.
Through these examples, Mary demonstrates that humility, trust, hope, and love are the hallmarks of discipleship. Mary teaches us how to give our lives away to God, despite our previous plans. We also see that our “Yes” or “No” to God does not just affect our life, but echoes throughout the human family. Little did Mary know what her “Yes” would mean when God called upon her, but had she fully known, would her response truly been an act of faith?
And so it is with us, that we might not know the full implications of our little daily surrenders to God’s will, but as Mary shows, a small “Yes” to God can change the course of history and transform countless lives.by