The victories and defeats of life depend in a sense on the priorities you give to God. The example of Mary of Nazareth, the Savior's mother is such an example of affirmation. The reality and validity of her example is because it does not rest on myths or old fables but provides a profound experience.
How can this happen?
After the angel Gabriel's announcement about the coming of the Messiah through her immaculate conception, Mary vacillated and asked how could this happen. Read Luke 1:34.
Mary knew the intervention of God in history of the Jewish nation and in an individual's personal life in particular; however, she had not yet experienced this intervention in her own life. She was young, bright, and intelligent and above all, a believer in God, but Mary was not wealthy nor did she enjoy high social standing. The success of the divine plan concerning the Messiah's birth depended on the decision and acceptance of this young woman.
The greatest of divine power touched the conscience
From the moment that Mary accepted her state of maternity and submitted to become "the servant of the Lord," she felt unworthy of this awesome privilege and realized her sins and the necessity of the Savior. The Son that she would bring to the world would also be the Savior that she needed. The humbleness and submission of Mary reaches its highest expression in the wonderful hymn of praise to God, "0 Magnificat" (Luke 1:46-55, NIV).
The fulfillment of God's will involves renunciation
Mary disposed herself to the sacrifice of submission and renunciation and accepted the role to become a mother unconditionally. "I am the Lord's servant" Mary answered, "May it be to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38, NIV). What seemed impossible became a privilege. Mary is called blessed or happy by all generations.
To be useful to God, we should often submit ourselves in our personal lives. The comfort of our home and our reputation should be renounced for God. In the crucial moment of the birth of Jesus, Mary accepted the most humiliating and socially inappropriate state to give birth to her son.
Gladness in service can bring tears
Mary cried when she accepted the plan to flee to Egypt in order to save the life of Jesus from the violent hands of Herod. The screams of the innocent children massacred by the king's soldiers broke her heart. Ten years later she would search unceasingly for her son who had disappeared for three days (Luke 2:46). When they arrived back in Nazareth, their home, the fear and insecurity pursued her. This was the ideal moment in which God provided a way for her to submit her motherly wishes and anxieties to the will of God. After that time she acquired full serenity that gave her the capacity to influence Jesus in a positive way from His adolescence to maturity. "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52, NIV).
The worries of a person determine their acts
This great woman's love for the Word of Cod served as an example to Jesus. It was in the home of Mary and Joseph that Jesus had His first contact with the Scriptures. Mary's thoughts were always on God. Mary and Joseph struggled to put their home and the education of their children in conformity with the will of God.
Jesus lived 18 years with His parents and brothers and sisters. At the time of Joseph's death, Jesus supported his mother and assumed the responsibility of acquiring the family's subsistence.
To remain in the shadows can be worthy
At the marriage of Cana, when Jesus was 30 years old, Mary discovered that there was a restriction and limit to her son's submission. She realized that in her son's life there were higher imperatives than her instructions. In accepting this distressing discovery, she said, "Do whatever He tells you" (John 2:5, NIV). When Jesus began His ministry, He left His home and Mary. For her, only the evidence of His continued availability that he had always shown, remained.
Mary suffered the rejection of her own children's belief in Jesus. She also suffered because the inhabitants of Nazareth refused to accept Him. It was apparent to her that the ministry of her Son was an absolute failure.
Mary suffered in silence as Jesus included everyone in His plan of salvation—herself, his brothers and sisters, the people that heard Him and His disciples (Matt. 12:46-50). For Jesus the relationship did not have anything to do with blood ties but instead with the ties raised by faith in God.
Mary's pain reached a climax when she saw her son crucified as a vulgar evildoer. She saw His agony. She heard the insults. Mary stayed beneath the shadow of the cro-'s and suffered with. Jesus until the end. All this was part of her role as a mother.
Jesus never forsakes us
When Jesus was suffering intense agony on the cross, He did not forget his mother. "When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, 'Dear woman, here is your son,' and to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.' From that time on, this disciple took her into his home" (John 19:26, 27, NIV). Mary appears again after the ascension of Christ in the upper room, where with the disciples, her other children, and some women devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 1:9-14). Mary did not vindicate anything for herself. Discreetly she took her place among the others. Mary had reached a spiritual maturity. She touched the culminating point of happiness and the lowest point of suffering. Her position before God never changed.
Through her life, Mary proved the sincerity of her own words when she told Gabriel at the announcement of the Messiah's birth, "I am the Lord's servant. . . . May it be to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38, NIV).
Today I hope that the example of Mary will serve as a point of reflection and inspiration for each one of us in our pastoral ministry goals for 1999 and in the years that separate us from the coming of our Redeemer.