And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.
What does it mean to be the mother of God? How do you become the Mother of God? What does that even mean?
Let’s start with what we mean when we say, “the Mother of God.” Mary, a girl probably from Tzippori, near Nazareth, was born in the first century BC and was a Galilean Jew. She was the daughter of Joachim and Anne. She was betrothed to Joseph but before they lived together – as a virgin – she conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and, in Bethlehem, gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God and the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Jesus if fully God and fully man.
As Jesus is God, Mary – His mother – is the Mother of God, the Theotokos, the most meritorious saint and a woman uniquely selected for the role of Mother of God since before time began. When we say Mary is the Mother of God, we affirm Mary’s motherhood of Jesus and Our Lord’s status as fully God. To deny either is heresy, so don’t do that, Mary is the Mother of God.
And how did Mary become the Mother of God? It’s not like that’s a job that shows up in the newspaper. No, she was selected by God and herself immaculately conceived through the merit of Jesus Christ to prepare the way for Christ: to prepare the perfect tabernacle to hold Our Lord before His birth at Bethlehem. But beyond selected, she agreed; that’s very important. She agreed knowing that there could and would be consequences.
What if Joseph didn’t accept that the child was from God? What if she was stoned to death for being an unwed mother? What if she was rejected and driven away from her home? The list of what-if’s goes on and on. But Mary didn’t do a cost-benefit study. She didn’t make a list of pros and cons. She didn’t even hesitate as long as it has taken me to describe this brief outline of what she had to fear if she agreed.
She agreed. And why? Because she trusted in God. Mary believed in God’s goodness and she trusted in His providence. God asked; she agreed, because that is what you do when you have the right relationship with God. You follow what he has planned for you.
And that, really, is a very important lesson we can learn from Mary: God calls all of us to follow the path He has laid out for us. We should all strive to be like Mary and follow that path without hesitation, without stopping to weigh the pros and the cons, and – most importantly – without fear. God has a plan for each an every one of us, and that plan is what is absolutely best for us. No one of us can come up with a better plan than what God has already made. I promise you that.
And how do we know what God is calling us to? Well, we could wait for the Archangel Gabriel to show up and tell us directly. But that could be a long wait. Besides, you don’t really want an Archangel showing up at your house and proclaiming God’s message to you directly; that’s terrifying. I don’t care what you may have seen in the movies or on tv, scripture makes clear that encounters with the angelic are frightening.
A far less frightening way is this: listen. If that doesn’t work, then listen better. Put away the phone, turn off the television and the radio, park the car. Skip the Chiefs’ game. Surround yourself with quiet and with stillness. Take time – take as long as it takes – and really, really listen. Put yourself in the presence of God and be ready to hear Him.
Listening can start with prayer, and it should. Let me give you an example: in the months before I was ordained a deacon, I was wondering how to be the best deacon I could be. Not the best deacon in the world; just the best I could be. I knew God was calling me to the diaconate, but I didn’t really know what came next… what would happen after my nose hit the marble and the bishop ordained me.
So I was sitting here in the church in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and I asked simply this: “God, how can I be the best deacon I can be?”
Then I stopped talking. I didn’t offer suggestions. I didn’t think about what other deacons do. I didn’t ponder the possibilities. I shut up, and I waited. And that time I didn’t have to wait long, though that is not always the case. God gave me an answer, just as clearly as if it had been delivered by an Archangel. It wasn’t the answer I expected; it wasn’t an answer I understood immediately. Like Mary, I had to keep God’s answer in my heart and ponder it, struggling with it until I understood what God was telling me. And I am still in a process of coming to understand.
And what did God tell me? That’s not the important part here; this isn’t about me. The answer I received is not the answer you will receive any more than the question I asked is the question you will ask. The vital thing is to ask, and to be ready to hear the answer. And, like Mary, to say ‘Yes’ to God, who desires only good things for us.
We all have a calling and a mission. Mary was called to be the Mother of God. I am called to a ministry of service. Perhaps you know what you are called to; perhaps you are still discerning. Regardless, it is good to check in – even if you do know – and to take time with God and to just ask, and to be ready to wait and listen for the answer… to be ready to be given the next step, the next mission, the next goal, the next assignment.
Finally, develop a relationship with Mary. Pray with her. Ask her to intercede for you, to help you become a model of Christian virtue: of purity, chastity, and obedience. Ask her to show you how to trust in the Lord not just as far as feels safe, but totally… to trust in God not as far as society approves, but completely. Be wild. Be a radical: just like Mary.