LENT WITH OUR LADY, PART I
MARY, MOTHER OF GOD
By Cliff Garvey
As Christians, we believe that God calls us to live as faithful and faith-filled disciples. But in what way of life and in what form of life are we called to live out our discipleship? As a woman, are you called to marriage, motherhood, religious life, or the single life? As a man, are you called to marriage, fatherhood, holy orders, religious life, or the single life? As a child of God and as a disciple of Christ, regardless of your age, gender, sexuality, or life experience, are you called to a life of prayer, solitude, and contemplation? Or are you called to a life of ministry and good works; a life of active service to your family, your parish, your community, or your country?
What is your calling? What is your vocation? Who are you called to be? What are you called to do with this one life that you are blessed to live? These are timeless questions that may take a lifetime to answer. But with hearts and minds open to prayer and discernment, God can help us find our way in the world. Each one of us can discover, rediscover, and respond to God’s plan for our life. At the same time, we know well that answering God’s call can be difficult. Answering God’s call can take courage, hard work, and perseverance.
All too often, answering God’s call requires us to ask for help. As always, we can look to the Blessed Virgin Mary for her example, her guidance, and especially her prayers for us. Just like you and me, Mary has a vocation. Indeed, she has a twin vocation. God calls Mary to serve as Mother of God and Mother of the Church. For now, let’s consider how the first part of Mary’s vocation takes shape — Mary as Mother of God.
As Mary comes of age in the house of her parents, Saint Ann and Saint Joachim, she is visited by Gabriel, and Angel of God. Gabriel tells Mary about her vocation; about God’s plan for her life. She will conceive and give birth to a son. Her son will be God’s son, too. And God makes all things possible, even the seemingly most impossible things. Mary responds: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word (Luke 1:38).” In this context, the archaic word, handmaid, suggests that Mary embraces her nearness to God. She embraces her vocation as a disciple, follower, and servant of the Lord. Most profoundly, she embraces her vocation as Mother of God.
Once again, in the Gospel of Luke, we read: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.” With these words, Mary says “yes.” In this miraculous moment, a vocation is offered, discerned, chosen and embraced. Mary says “yes” to her vocation. She says “yes” to God’s plan for her life. In his book, Waking Up Catholic, Chad Torgerson writes: “Mary was chosen, but she still had choices to make. Like us, Mary had the free will to make these choices on her own. When faced with one of the greatest challenges humankind has ever known (being the Mother of God), Mary responded with strength, grace, and a steadfast heart.”
Pause for a moment to pray about and reflect on Mary’s choices. Mary chooses to listen to God’s messenger. Mary chooses to believe with her whole heart. Mary chooses to do God’s will without complaint. Mary chooses to serve God without counting the cost. Mary chooses to suffer at the foot of the Cross. And Mary chooses to surrender her whole life to God’s plan for salvation. At the moment of her annunciation, Mary embraces her vocation with great joy.
Likewise, she does not turn away from that vocation even when her joy turns to grief, pain, and sorrow. Torgerson writes: “In Christ, Mary was given the greatest gift the world has ever known. With Christ’s death on the Cross, she was given one of the greatest sorrows the world has ever known.” In the face of such suffering, Mary does not turn away. She does not run away. She does not turn away in anger, bitterness, or resentment. She does not deny her faith. She does not reject God. She does not reject God’s plan for her life. Instead, Mary clings to the Crucified Christ with the same love with which she cradles the Child Jesus. This is a mother’s love. This is a love that knows no boundaries, no exceptions, and no limits. This is a love that transcends time and place; a love that never ends.
Edwin Hubbell Chapin (1814-1880) was a Christian minister, journalist, and editor. Chapin writes about a mother’s love for her child: “No language can express the power and beauty and heroism and majesty of a mother’s love.” Chapin captures the immeasurable depth of Mary’s love for her son and for us, her adopted children. In a similar way, Jessica Lange, the award-winning actress speaks about a mother’s role in the life of her children. Consider her comments within the context of Mary’s life and experience as the Mother of God. She says: “Motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.” Likewise, Pope Francis writes: “Mary’s life shows that great deeds are accomplished through those who are most humble.”
Through the purest humility, Mary surrenders herself to motherhood. She surrenders herself to God. She surrenders herself to God’s Only Son. By doing so, Mary surrenders herself to us: God’s poor, broken, little children; all desperate for a mother’s love, all desperate for a mother’s touch. In this way, throughout her lifetime and for all time, Mary embraces her vocation as Mother of God. Saint John Paul II reminds us: “From Mary, we learn to trust even when all hope is gone. From Mary, we learn to love Christ, her son and the Son of God.”
Here’s the best part! We can join in Mary’s blessed vocation. We can play a part in Mary’s vocation as Mother of God. Saint Francis of Assisi shows us the way. He writes: “We are spouses of Christ when a faithful soul is joined by the Holy Spirit to our Lord Jesus Christ. We are siblings of Christ when we do the will of our Father in heaven. And we are mothers of Christ when we carry him in our hearts and bodies through divine love, and when pure and sincere consciences give birth to him in our world through holy deeds that shine as a good example to others.”
Now more than ever, we can manifest our devotion to the Blessed Mother by discerning our own vocations, embracing God’s plan for our lives, becoming the men and women that we are called to be, and choosing to love and serve others without counting the cost. We can just say “yes” to God. Let it be done to me according to your word, O Lord! Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us! Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us! Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us! Our Lady of the Annunciation, pray for us! Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!
About the Author & Presenter
Cliff Garvey is a co-founder of the Assisi Project. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine, Saint John Seminary College, and the Catholic University of America. Cliff is a writer, spiritual director, retreat leader, and university lecturer. He also serves as Associate Minister of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport in Massachusetts where his ministry focuses on adult faith formation. Thank you for listening to Losing Linus: A Story of Spiritual Communion. The Assisi Project Podcast is produced by the Assisi Project, Inc. For more information about the Assisi Project: A Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit and our ministries for adults of all ages and backgrounds, please contact Cliff at email@example.com. Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. May the Lord give you peace!
Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with friends and followers throughout the world. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. The Assisi Project is a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization. All are welcome to support our ministry via PayPal or AmazonSmile (see links below); or by sending a tax-deductible donation to the Assisi Project, Post Office Box 3158, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01931-3158. For more information about the Assisi Project, please contact Cliff Garvey at firstname.lastname@example.org. May the Lord give you peace!
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