Winston Churchill was flummoxed by Russia. His quote about how the Russians think has become well known: “…it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” I must admit that when it comes to Mary and how she thinks, I am at a similar place! When I think about Mary or pray a Rosary, a single Hail Mary and especially the Seven Sorrows Devotion I never fail to finish the prayer without a tangible sense of peace and calm, but I must admit to an identical position to Churchill’s. Despite the fact that she was chosen by God to bring his Son to the human race, Mary’s life was far from perfect. Every grace she was ever gifted with was wrapped in one disaster or another. At no time, though did she ever sully the title originally given to her directly from the lips of God and delivered by his messenger Gabriel: “Hail, full of grace.”
Think about it. Upon receiving the news that she was about to bear the Son of God, her soon to be husband began making plans to “dump her”. The actual birth didn’t go so well as she would up in a stable on a cold Jerusalem night amid the critters and the hay. After Jesus was born, she got no break on the eighth day, when upon bringing him to the Temple, according to the law, she received devastating and cryptic news from a complete stranger: Because of this child, “your heart a sword shall pierce”. This was supposed to be a day of celebration. This cheery news was almost immediately followed by a crazy demand from her husband that they must immediately leave their home country and become fugitives in Egypt, an unfamiliar land filled with dangers and enemies. All this with a brand new baby, Yikes! Don’t forget that Mary was most likely not older than fourteen or so and just a kid herself.
Things take an upswing and it looks like a return to home is possible. Upon a significant family outing, Mary and Jesus promptly lose Jesus in the caravan and when they find Him he actually sasses his parents by asking them “…what did you expect”. Talk about the urge to strangle someone. There is no record in the bible that later Jesus apologized for being so brusque in a very public setting. When you speak to God, exactly how do you tell Him that you lost his Son? Her next sadness is the loss of her good and kind husband. He is not present when Jesus begins his ministry. When Jesus returns home from a preaching junket Mary is once again publically embarrassed by him when she and other kin try to see him in the middle of a huge crowd. He denies his relatives access and tells them that all who follow him are “my mother and brothers”. The next grief comes at a very public party, a wedding, where Mary requests that Jesus show his power and He actually tells her that at this point in time this matter is none of his concern. Finally, after being a constant witness to his spectacular success and ministry she has to endure his unjust arrest, and hear about his brutal torture. When she lays eyes on Him for the last time it is with the other women of Jerusalem as he stumbles along the Via Dolorosa pitifully mauled and carrying his own instrument of death. Her last moments spent with him are standing on Calvary when all hope has gone out of the situation. In a final act she cradles his broken, spit, sweat, blood covered body in her arms. This was the very same body who’s warm, sweet smelling, infant head she cradled while angels sang and the world came to greet Him in a scene that must have seemed like a dream to a fifteen year old. Even without being there this scene is heart rending at the very least and spirit wounding at the very most.
We need to move away from any idea we have which tells us that Mary’s life was perfect because God chose her. Her life was far from perfect, but it was the life that happened around her because of “circumstances”, kind of like each of us. If we take the broad view of her life we actually see that she really travels from one disaster to the next. Does this sound familiar? In these observations we can see that Mary lived a real life that was without frills or special privileges. Yet she was the most special member of the human race who ever existed, God’s handpicked bride and mother of his son. This reality should jar us into a different way of thinking about what we deserve or how we need “extra credit” because of our sufferings. Not once, in our scriptural record is it recorded that Mary despaired or complained. Quite simply, she persevered. There is no way for us to know what Mary’s relationship with God was really like or what it was like to experience Jesus in the most intimate of ways as His Mom. One thing is clear, however, whatever transpired in those situations left a mark on Mary that filled her with courage, vision, a steely will to go forward and an uncanny ability to press on completely undaunted. Remember that her presence at the crucifixion could have easily “set her up” as a viable candidate for arrest, torture and/or her own death. Immediately after that disaster she went on to be the backbone of the new movement that some called “The Discipline of the Secret”. She was the one who upheld the Apostles as they cowered in the Upper Room including those who embarrassingly returned after completely deserting her and her son whey they were most needed. She was still “Mom” and there is no anger recorded that she directed toward her “adopted boys”.
So when you think about all of the unfair things that have happened to you in your life time, include a thoughtful consideration of Mary. Would you like to learn the gifts that a relationship with God can give you or are you more interested in being intently focused on your adversities? Sometimes this is “spiritual bait” that the enemy dangles in front of our face. In every disaster there is a grace to be had. No one knows this better than Mary does. Seek her counsel and you too can master the skill of dwelling in grace despite the fact that you are in the middle of adversity. She was the expert, Hail Mary!
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Copyright©2011, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved.
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