Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mary, our Exemplar?

Some days, it's better just to let the gifted Teachers in our midst speak.

Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D. explains Marian devotion so much better than I ever could:
Is Marian devotion important in Christian life? This has been a bone of contention between Catholics and Protestants for nearly 500 years.

Let’s look at the evidence in just the first chapter of Luke.

First, the Angel Gabriel honors her with the greeting “Hail, full of grace” (Lk 1:29). Then Elizabeth prophesies “blessed are you among women.” Next the prophet John leaps for joy in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. Then, in her response to Elizabeth, Mary prophesies “all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1:48).

But it is Elizabeth’s final words to Mary that hold the key to understanding why she is she is to honored, namely, her faith.

One of the battle-cries of the Protestant Reformation was “Faith Alone!” One key conviction that united the many disparate strands of the Reformation was that it is impossible to earn God’s favor by our good works, but rather we receive his love as a pure gift, a grace, through faith.

Now consider Mary. Did she criss-cross the Mediterranean planting Churches like Paul? Did she give eloquent sermons like Stephen (Acts 7). Did she govern the Church like Peter? No. Her claim to fame is that she simply said yes to God. She believed He could do as he said and would do as He said.

But true faith is not just intellectual conviction that God exists or that He can do thus and such. Faith involves entrusting oneself, abandoning oneself to God, willing to submit to his will. That’s why Paul talks about “the obedience of faith” (Ro 16:26). She surrendered her plan for her life, and yielded to God’s plan. And she did this not once, but again and again, even when he left her to begin his public ministry. And when that ministry led to the horror of Calvary, her faith stood its ground at the foot of the cross.

So Catholics honor Mary for being the perfect example of the greatest Protestant virtue. Ironic isn’t it?
True. He also points out that any Christian who honors Mary honors Christ. Mary's life testifies to the glory of God. We can never honor her alone, even when we adore her. She testifies herself that "The Lord has done great things for me." Our praise of her is praise through her to him!

We often wonder what we need to do, be or accomplish. Mary reminds all of us that we need to do our Father's will. We serve God when we say "yes" to his plan for our lives, even when that means saying "no" to our own agenda.

That's never easy. That's why it's often a cross for us to bear.

We won't regret doing it, however. Far from it. When we say yes to God, we become blessed. We receive the true beatitude of a life of Faith in him. That life bears us up into union with him for eternity. We could not ask for any greater blessing.

Mary's life affirmed God's will for her. Let's follow her example and become the disciples our Savior has called us to be!