First of all, let me preface this post by admitting that the fact that I have learned anything from Mary is one giant leap in this conversion process. Most Protestants don’t even give Mary a nod of acknowledgement, let alone admit they can learn something from her. So, the fact that I am now able to admit that I have, in fact, learned something from Mary means I’m making great strides in this Catholic conversion process.
Side note: Just because one becomes Catholic doesn’t mean every single teaching by the Catholic church suddenly makes great sense and is immediately embraced by the convert. It’s a process. You’re not going to understand and fully embrace everything right off the bat. You accept it as truth, and yet also accept the fact that you don’t quite understand it. That’s sort of been my relationship with Mary. I accept her role, but I don’t fully understand it. However, we’ve been making great strides in our relationship. Will I ever have a devotion to Mary? Probably not. But I can see us being good buds.
Anyway, as I was saying, despite her rather small role in the gospels, the few things Mary does have to say or do speaks volumes – and it is these things that have basically jumped off the page at me this Advent season.
Today’s gospel reading at Mass reaffirmed the new light in which I’ve been seeing Mary.
The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.
When eight days were completed for his circumcision,
he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb.
Some translations say, “Mary pondered these things in her heart.”
To ponder: To think about (something) carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion; to contemplate, consider and muse over.
In preparing for Advent, I had read this verse a few times over a couple weeks back. And it was that little snippet – that pondering snippet – that I kept ruminating over (or pondering, if you will). Mary pondered all these things going on around her.
- Her visitation by the angels.
- Elizabeth’s pregnancy.
- Her conceiving a child as a virgin.
- Her subsequent marriage to Joseph despite her being with child.
- Registering for the census.
- Being unable to find a place to birth her first born.
- Giving birth in a manger.
- The shepherds visit to her newborn son.
Here are all these truly miraculous, and yes, unbelievable things happening around her and we don’t hear about her freaking out, demanding answers, hurling question upon question upon question at God, trying to make things fit together in a nice, neat, tidy little package. No. What we see is Mary accepting God’s plan and calmly pondering and contemplating the meaning of all these things.
Does no one else find this truly bizarre? When was the last time you calmly pondered anything? We’re not a society of ponderers. We want answers. We want them now. And we want them to be clear and concise and resolved as quickly as possible so we can move on to the next thing.
But Mary didn’t have answers. She was probably just as scared and bewildered and confused as the next new mother. But the difference is that she trusted enough to “keep all those things and ponder them in her heart” – with the knowledge that God had a perfect plan even if she didn’t see or understand it.
That’s how I want to be. I want to trust enough to keep things in my heart and ponder them, all the while trusting God’s plan; knowing that just because I can’t see the end result doesn’t mean He’s not in control. I want to stop demanding answers and asking questions and just… accept His plan.
And tonight, as I was praying for this grace, it occurred to me… Who better to ask for prayers in this area than the one who received that grace herself?
Oh, the irony.
And they say God doesn’t have a sense of humor.