Why is Mary so revered by Catholics?
We can look at some of her many titles and attributes coming from Scripture – Mother of God; Full of Grace; Most Blessed - and those indeed tell us how special she is.
We can reflect on how as Jesus hung on the cross, He gave Mary, His Mother, to us saying “Behold your Mother.” In that He was establishing a new relationship of Love between her and all disciples as our Mother.
But it’s something more. An interesting paradox particularly revealed in today’s Solemnity of the Annunciation. We hear the Gospel account of how the Angel Gabriel brings Mary this amazingly good news that would seem to distance her from us. Yet, at the same time, this Gospel reveals what ties Mary to us in an intimate way; in her dialogue with the angel, we see the pattern for how God works in our lives as well.
Fr. James Martin, S.J., in his new book entitled Jesus: A Pilgrimage, expands on this in a beautiful chapter that reflects on today’s feast day entitled simply, “Yes.” In this chapter, Fr. Martin shares how we see glimmers of how what happens to Mary happens to us. To summarize, he points out that:
- God initiates the conversation. And as much as we might bemoan that we don’t have heavenly visitors communicating to us in a similar fashion to Mary (careful what you wish for on that by the way…) – the reality is that we can see how He breaks into our lives in unexpected ways: perhaps a scripture reading, a friends comforting words during a time of great distress or vulnerability, or a spectacular sunset that leaves us in awesome wonder of the greatness of creation and moreover our Creator. Those are the beginnings of God’s conversation with us.
- When that reality clicks - when we realize God is speaking to us - sometimes we’re excited, or grateful... sometimes we’re like Mary - fearful. We might struggle in wonder at our littleness in light of the awesomeness of our creator who is paying attention to us and ask, “who me?” We argue…And at that moment, the angel speaks the words to Mary that her son Jesus will say over and over throughout the Gospels: Do not be afraid…
- But humanity clicks in… and like Mary we wonder How can this be? That’s a common question - whether it’s something where God intersects in proposing something wonderfully new or when we experience some darkness in our lives. How can this be is another universal question that all humanity – disciple or not – asks at some point.
- The response to that question, in either of those situations, we find in this interaction with Mary and the angel. The angel invites her to look around – look at your cousin Elizabeth – look at what God is able to do! Remembering what God has been able to do in the past is essential in embracing the future – however dark, however mysterious or shrouded it might appear.
- In that, Mary’s confidence is renewed to say Yes… to which Fr. Martin shared part of a poem called “The Annunciation”:
But we are told of meek obedience.
No one mentions courage
The engendering Spirit did not enter her without consent.
That’s why this feast should fill us with joy and cause us to align ourselves even more closely to Mary… How God Loves us!
He initiates the conversation
He intersects with our lives
He invites us into His story
He comforts us in our fear at accepting this radical change by reminding us of all He has done and continues to do for us.
He trusts us, humbly waiting for us to say “Yes.”
May Mary our Mother pray for us that we will have her attentiveness, her courage to accept what it is God is inviting us to be a part of. To say “Yes” to Him – and to be surprised by the results; see the blessings multiplied in ways we can’t anticipate; see our lives and the lives around us changed.
That’s what the Annunciation promises us – when we say Yes to God, the world is completely transformed.