1 – Mary Conceived without sin – Mary Immaculate
I grew up in a Catholic household where Mary was visible – there were statues in our home and Hail Mary prayers at school. I’m not sure I ever stopped to wonder what made her Immaculate until I came back into the church and actually learned my faith for the first time in my late 40’s. Now I know, without a doubt, she is Immaculate. She had to be. Who else but one conceived without sin could carry the Son of God in her womb and bear Him to the world? But another question is, did she ever wonder if she were different than the girls she grew up around? Did Ann and Joaquim have any idea their daughter would have such an awesome responsibility and lead the life she did? Would they have treated her differently if they had known?
I have come to find that many adults have bad memories of how they were treated by their parents. Even what looked like a loving home there can be found abuse, neglect, abandonment, cruelty and a host of problems. Unfortunately, broken parents bring all this weakness, imperfection and blindness into the raising of their own, ill-equipping them to be loving parents. For years I didn’t understand my own relationship with my mother. It was distant, she was silent about so many things and I just accepted it. She taught me what she thought was important – cooking, cleaning and sewing, hospitality and charity. But there was a distance – and times I really resented that distance and her lack of sharing. And yet it could have been me, all wrapped up in my own world. She had six other children and a husband. Who was blind I look back and think now. And yet at the end of her life it was me who was the mother to her and she was the child, enduring years of Alzheimer’s disease. Unspoken words of love went between us as she now relied more and more on me. Whatever had been there was gone when she passed away in my arms to Jesus. Would she have been different to me had she known I needed more from her? It doesn’t matter anymore, as I forgave her for all she did, and didn’t do. I am who I am by my experiences, good or bad. St. Paul reminds me, God’s power is made perfect in my weakness.
Mary was most likely taught all the things she needed to keep a house, provide meals and in the raising of children. Yet she would hardly have a chance to do anything conventional. Instead she was met by an angel, gave birth in a cave, hear how a sword would pierce her heart and so on. Hopefully there was some normalcy once they were back in Nazareth and Mary and Joseph raised Jesus. But it’s likely Jesus was not exactly your normal kid – so what is unspoken in Scripture does make one wonder about the conversations in their holy household. And what does it say to us women who follow her Son? Can we expect to have a life of unconventional living? It is likely in this secular world we must adapt to life in an ever-changing environment of hostility towards our real homeland in Heaven. We must strive to birth Her son to the world as well in how we love God and each other.
In this Lenten series on Mary, I will write about Mary’s walk to the cross through her life with Jesus. Are you close or distant to her? Is she someone you call upon or just recite a rosary to? Mary, Queen of heaven and earth, is the one who gift wraps all we need and offers it to her Son for us. Will you take a step in and receive her mantle of grace and blessings this Lent so she can assist you to draw closer to Jesus and walk this way of the Cross?
Today is Ash Wednesday and we remember we are dust and to dust we shall return. Not so with Mary. We all know she was created in a way that was set apart from the rest of us. Scripture says she was hardly 12 years old when the Angel Gabriel came to visit her. The Annunciation account found in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38) tells us certain facts: The angel Gabriel visits a virgin named Mary in the village of Nazareth. This moment in Mary’s life, in which she is asked to be the mother of the Savior, is rich for meditation. Those who say the Rosary contemplate the mystery every time they pray the joyful mysteries. To see an Angel – that is big. And then for this angel to tell her she would be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and conceive a child – bewildering. Some tell us she was given some sort of awareness that God would speak to her in a special way and she prepared as much as she could. Regardless, Mary had to be filled with an anticipation I just can’t hardly wrap my head around. Mary filled with great humility and grace, emptied herself of everything to receive the Holy Spirit and the special gift of bringing Christ to the world. Thank you, Mary. Thank you for your fiat, your trust and surrender to God’s will. Help me to bring Him to others too.
So what about us? Are you prepared to receive a message from God? Do you have enough silent time built into your day to be able to hear God if he sent you a message? The best way for me to hear God is in my daily prayer time. I read the scriptures and give time for Him to speak to my heart. I know He’d really like to get a word in if I would be silent long enough. He always wants to speak to us. Ponder the stirrings of your heart; have you been quiet, morning noon or night even if just for five minutes to say hey God, you have the floor. I’m just going to lean back on your shoulder or climb into your chair with you and be still … and know that you are God – and I am not. Picture him pulling you close. Yield to Him; be soft, tender, meek and give your fiat in whatever He is asking from you. It may just be to acknowledge and receive His love. Give him more time and relish the joy of His presence. He loves you so much and wants to draw close. He did that with Mary because she had a very special purpose for her life. You do too.
He created you for this time, for this purpose, to walk the way of the cross with His mother. You may not yet know exactly what that looks like. You might think you gave your ability away or lost it in trauma, abuse, shame or regret. It is never lost but perhaps just waiting. God will bring it home for you as you open yourself up to Him. Consider asking Mary to help you to open up to receiving all He has to give you this Lent. Mary did it because her heart was in union with His even before He entered her body. Mary was so docile and obedient she could only be meek and loving, full of charity and grace. Oh, how I wished for a long time in my life that I could be more like Mary. I didn’t realize I had to take the first step in faith and hope in believing what her Son could forgive – was everything. Once I did, life wasn’t ever the same anymore. Today I know it’s not a one and done thing. Mary continues to guide me as I walk with her. She reminds me we will never be perfect but continue to offer ourselves in repentance for our sins to her Son.
Mary wants to show us the way to her Son’s most Sacred heart, via the cross. We often just want to do it ourselves, wrangling with our ways, which usually are about us, not Him. Mary will strip us to our core selves if we follow her ways, placing others before us and dying to our own needs and wants. She will show us this Lent how to walk a very different way with her.
As the stripping begins, lean into the Mother of God. She will model how to love and give yourself in ways you never thought possible. Empty your hands today and let her guide you to the banquet of her Son, via the way of the Cross. Come, let’s take on her mantle of grace, and walk together.
Next up: Sunday – Mary at Bethlehem – Mary, Holy Mother of the Newborn King
Image: 1) Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons 2) Authors image
This morning I decided I would light a candle with an image of our Lady of Sorrows which I had been saving. I decided I would light it all through Lent and ask her to walk with me. Then after prayer I read your beautiful words. 🙏🏻. I don’t think it was me “deciding” so much as Our Lady inviting. Thank you.
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