Mary: Our Model of Faith
Mary’s Yes to God
We are familiar with Luke’s account of the Incarnation when the angel appeared to Mary and announced, “The Lord is with you.” Mary fully grasped this message and was therefore able to believe. Because she was able to believe, she was able to respond in faith, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to your word.”
However, before Mary responded to God, the Scriptures remind us that Mary was confused and frightened, and was deeply disturbed by the angel’s greeting. Mary was fully human. In spite of her faith, her belief, her love, she was still confused and disturbed. She struggled to say “Yes” to the Lord! She “pondered” these words in her heart.
Pondering is not simply a question of “thinking” or of trying to master the realities of faith or mysteries of life. It is not a question of trying to control these realities or mysteries or reduce them to something our minds can handle. Rather, it is a question of letting the realities of faith be with us, to enter into us and reveal themselves to us. It is allowing ourselves to be molded by them, to allow God’s will to become our will. It is fostering both an attitude and atmosphere of trust and openness in our lives.
Mary took a leap in faith. She had to let go of her plans and say “Yes” to a life of faith. In spite of her awareness of her own unworthiness and littleness, she had to say “Yes” to become the mother of God and also all that it would entail. She was asked to let go of her plans and let God take over her life. Mary’s “Yes” was to culminate at the foot of the cross.
Mary understood well that she would never completely understand! Even in her limited understanding, she trusted in God and said “Yes” to God’s plan. Immediately after the angel left her, Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, “the child leaped in her womb.” “Blessed are you among women, blessed are you who have believed.” Mary can be seen as the first to bring Christ forth and share him with the whole world. Mary was the messenger and Christ was the message.
We, like Mary, are asked to bring forth a Savior to a weary, hurting world. The mystical body of Christ is pregnant with hope and calls us to be a Christ-bearer to a world desperately in need. It is a world in waiting for our eager and decisive “Yes” to the Lord and our “Yes” to a life of faith, as we are sent forth to follow the example of Mary and follow in the Christ’s footsteps.
Pope Benedict XVI on Mary
From the encyclical Deus Caritas Est (2005)
Outstanding among the saints is Mary, Mother of the Lord and mirror of all holiness. In the Gospel of Luke we find her engaged in a service of charity to her cousin Elizabeth, with whom she remained for “about three months” (1:56) so as to assist her in the final phase of her pregnancy.
“Magnificat anima mea Dominum,” she says on the occasion of that visit, “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Lk 1:46). In these words she expresses her whole program of life: not setting herself at the center, but leaving space for God, who is encountered both in prayer and in service of neighbor — only then does goodness enter the world. Mary’s greatness consists in the fact that she wants to magnify God, not herself. She is lowly: Her only desire is to be the handmaid of the Lord (Lk 1:38, 48). She knows that she will only contribute to the salvation of the world if, rather than carrying out her own projects, she places herself completely at the disposal of God’s initiatives.
Mary is a woman of hope: only because she believes in God’s promises and awaits the salvation of Israel, can the angel visit her and call her to the decisive service of these promises. Mary is a woman of faith: “Blessed are you who believed,” Elizabeth says to her (Lk 1:45). The Magnificat — a portrait, so to speak, of her soul — is entirely woven from threads of Holy Scripture, threads drawn from the Word of God. Here we see how completely at home Mary is with the Word of God, with ease she moves in and out of it. She speaks and thinks with the Word of God. … Since Mary is completely imbued with the Word of God, she is able to become the Mother of the Word Incarnate.
Finally, Mary is a woman who loves. … We sense this in her quiet gestures, as recounted by the infancy narratives in the Gospel. We see it in the delicacy with which she recognizes the need of the spouses at Cana and makes it known to Jesus. We see it in the humility with which she recedes into the background during Jesus’ public life, knowing that the Son must establish a new family and that the Mother’s hour will come only with the Cross, which will be Jesus’ true hour (Jn 2:4; 13:1). When the disciples flee, Mary will remain beneath the Cross (Jn 19:25-27); later, at the hour of Pentecost, it will be they who gather around her as they wait for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14).
The lives of the saints are not limited to their earthly biographies but also include their being and working in God after death. In the saints one thing becomes clear: those who draw near to God do not withdraw from men, but rather become truly close to them. In no one do we see this more clearly than in Mary. The words addressed by the crucified Lord to his disciple – to John and through him to all disciples of Jesus: “Behold, your mother!” (Jn 19:27) – are fulfilled anew in every generation.
Mary has truly become the Mother of all believers. Men and women of every time and place have recourse to her motherly kindness and her virginal purity and grace, in all their needs and aspirations, their joys and sorrows, their moments of loneliness and their common endeavors. … Mary, Virgin and Mother, shows us what love is and whence it draws its origin and its constantly renewed power. To her we entrust the Church and her mission in the service of love:
Holy Mary, Mother of God, you have given the world its true light, Jesus, your Son – the Son of God. You abandoned yourself completely to God’s call and thus became a wellspring of the goodness that flows forth from him. Show us Jesus. Lead us to him. Teach us to know and love him, so that we too can become capable of true love and be fountains of living water in the midst of a thirsting world.