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Chapter One, Mary Walking with God
I knew what my eleven-month- old daughter was thinking. Josephine stood by a chair holding herself up, contemplating her first step, but not sure she wanted to let go. I was kneeling down only about five feet away with my arms open wide, ready to catch her if she fell. With a big smile on my face, I cheered her on. “Come on, Josephine! You can do it! Let go and come to Daddy!” She smiled back, and I could tell she was ready to make the move. She let go, abandoning the security of the chair, and stood all on her own for the first time. Would she now take that risky first step?
“Come to Daddy, Josephine! You can do it!”
Suddenly her knees started to quiver. Her legs began to shake, and the look on her face changed from excitement to horror. In a panic she desperately reached back for the chair and caught her balance just in time. She clung on for dear life, wearing a sad look of fear as if to say, “No Dad. I don’t think I want to try this.”
But I egged her on and encouraged her to give it another shot. She eventually let go of the chair again, but this time, when her legs began to tremble, instead of going back to the chair she came wobbling toward me. She fell five steps forward and landed in my arms—her first steps! She laughed and crawled back to the chair to try it again. Seven steps on her second attempt. Back to the chair. We played this game for a long time that afternoon and she grew in confidence with each new step. Gradually she began walking for greater and greater distances, and within a few weeks crawling was just not as interesting. Walking became Josephine’s primary mode of transportation.
Our Walk with God
We all have experienced moments in life when we have had to take a step toward something unknown. It could be moving to a new city, going through a job restructuring, or starting a new relationship. Walking into uncharted territory often comes with a bit of fear and trembling.
Similarly, although walking with God in faith can be a thrilling adventure, it also has some unsettling elements. If we truly allow him to guide our lives, we will be challenged to step out into the unknown, give up control, and rely more completely on him. And that is not something we easily do. But it may be comforting to know that while our Heavenly Father invites his people to follow him with ever greater levels of trust and surrender, he calls them to take only one step at a time.
We see this in biblical heroes like Abraham. God promised him many blessings and descendants, but Abraham first had to leave his home and move to a distant land, trusting that God would bless him there. Similarly, Moses had to take those first steps out of Egypt into a barren desert, unsure of what trials he would face as he led the Israelites toward the Promised Land.
We see this also in the saints throughout the Christian era. These holy men and women did not become saintly figures overnight. They all had to learn to walk with the Lord one step at a time. And at each step they were confronted with new opportunities to grow in love and service. Saint Anthony of the Desert was drawn to sell all his possessions and give his money to the poor. Saint Augustine was called to give up a quiet life of prayer and study to serve as a busy bishop administering church affairs and attending to his people’s daily needs. St. Thérèse of Lisieux was inspired to seek out the people who hurt her and frustrated her the most and show them small acts of kindness. Some of the saints were drawn to give up something they liked, move to a new place, or let go of something comfortable and familiar. God called Saint Francis Xavier, for example, to leave Europe and bring the Gospel to the Far East. He prompted the extroverted Saint Teresa of Avila to give up extra socializing in order to cultivate a deeper interior silence and union with him. At still other times, God drew the saints closer to him through intense trials and darkness, persecutions and misunderstandings. Saint John of the Cross was mistreated and imprisoned in a dark, cramped dungeon for nine months by his fellow Carmelites. But it was precisely through his being deprived of all worldly security and comfort that he gained a deeper mystical understanding of the spiritual life and experienced a profound encounter, in the very core of his being, with a God who lovingly pours himself out to fill our emptiness and gives inner strength to souls amid the darkness. Mother Teresa faced decades of painful spiritual darkness in which she did not sense God’s closeness in her life, but eventually came to see that her feeling unwanted and forsaken allowed her to identify herself more with the loneliness and isolation of the poor and with Jesus himself who experienced suffering and rejection on Good Friday. Like a child learning to let go of the chair and walk, the saints gradually—through many ordeals—learned to abandon themselves ever more completely to God and walk in his ways.
The same is true for the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Christians may know Mary was an important woman in God’s plan of salvation. After all, she was chosen to be the Mother of God’s Son! And Catholics, in particular, have a special affection for Mary. They sing hymns dedicated to her, recite various Marian prayers, and celebrate special feast days in honor of Mary. Catholic churches are decorated with statues, pictures, icons, and stained-glass windows depicting her splendor. And Catholic theology teaches that she is the Immaculate Conception, the Ever-Virgin Mother of God, and the Queen of Heaven and Earth.
We may know the Mary of sacred music, sacred art, and sacred theology—all of which beautifully express important aspects about the mystery of the mother of God—but how well do we know the humanness of Mary? How familiar are we with Mary’s pilgrimage of faith and the important steps the Lord invited her to take throughout her life? Mary was endowed with unique graces and privileges in Christ’s kingdom, but she was still a woman who had her own faith journey to make—and one that we can relate to in many ways. She experienced the joys of parenthood and the blessings of following God’s plan. But she also experienced the devastation of watching her son be misunderstood, rejected, and killed on the cross. Sometimes she was treated with dignity and honor. Other times she was humbled and oppressed. On some occasions God made his will clear for her, and she wholeheartedly committed herself to what the Lord was asking in that moment. But there were other times when it was not so apparent what the Lord was doing in her life and what she was supposed to do next.
When Mary was confronted with God’s call at pivotal moments in her life, she chose to remain open to the Lord’s plan for her every step of the way, even though what lay ahead for her was not always clear. Not everything was revealed to her all at once. There were moments when Mary did not understand what was happening and moments when she was not in control—moments when all she could do was prayerfully keep all these things and ponder them in her heart, awaiting God’s fuller revelation to her (Luke 2:19, 51). Like all followers of Christ, Mary had to walk by faith, and not by sight.
A Continuous Fiat
New Testament scholar Francis Moloney emphasizes that Mary’s faith was not completed at the Annunciation with her “fiat”—her “yes” to God’s call for her to become the mother of the Messiah (Luke 1:38). Moloney explains that Mary’s assent had to be repeated over and over again as she watched her son grow from a child into a man: Mary’s Fiat did not lift her out of the necessary puzzlement, anxiety and pain which often arises [sic] from the radical nature of the Christian vocation. Despite her remarkable initiation into the Christian mystery, she still had to proceed through the rest of her life, “treasuring in her heart” the mysteries revealed to her, never fully understanding, but patiently waiting for God’s time and God’s ultimate answer.
Blessed John Paul II sees Mary’s “fiat” at the Annunciation as just the beginning of a profound spiritual trek. He describes it as “the point of departure from which her whole ‘journey towards God’ begins, her whole pilgrimage of faith.” Mary will be required to exhibit total trust in God, which means “to abandon oneself” to the living God and the mystery of his will. Indeed, Mary’s faith will be tested over and over again. And each time she will pass the test, “accepting fully and with a ready heart everything that is decreed in the divine plan.”
In this book we will walk with Mary on her journey of faith from the Annunciation to the cross to her sharing in Christ’s heavenly reign. The Scriptures will be our guide and our primary point of departure. We will focus on nine pivotal moments in her walk with the Lord—nine steps in the journey of faith that God invites her to take as seen in the Scriptures. The nine steps I map out in this book are meant to be an instructive device to help take in many of the key moments in Mary’s pilgrimage of faith. For simplicity, I focus on the Gospels of Luke and John—the two New Testament books in which Mary’s role in the narrative stands out the most, and the Gospels that provide the most information about her.
But before we begin walking with Mary, let’s put ourselves in her shoes at the start of her pilgrimage of faith and consider what her life was like as a young woman, betrothed to Joseph, in the small village of Nazareth.
1. Step 1 – Open Heart
1. At every Mass, Catholics hear the greeting “The Lord be with you”—an echo of the words Gabriel spoke to Mary. How were those words used in the Old Testament Scriptures? What did the greeting indicate for Mary? And what might those words mean for us today when we hear them in the Mass?
2. Mary “considered in her mind” the angel’s greeting. We observe that this expression describes how Mary remained in dialogue with God’s word, open to whatever God might be calling her to do. How do you typically respond when you sense God might be asking you to do something difficult, make a change or give up something you like? How does Mary model for us the proper disposition we should always have before God?
3. We have learned how Mary found favor with God, which means that God viewed her as someone to whom he could entrust a lot. Consider a responsibility or person God has entrusted to your care. Do you think God looks on you with favor in what he has entrusted to you? Why or why not?
2. Step 2 - Servant of the Lord
1. Mary described herself as a "servant of the Lord." Does this idea of being God's servant-being totally at the disposal of God's plans for you-seem exciting or frightening to you? Why?
2. What is one area in your life where you can give up your own interests, desires and pursuits more in order to be free to serve God and others more?
3. Mary didn't just do God's will. She did it joyfully, like a lover wanting to fulfill the desires of her beloved. Describe something in your life now that you wish you could do more joyfully, like Mary.
3. Step 3 - A Soul that Magnifies the Lord
1. When you feel busy and have a lot to do, how attentive are you to others' needs? How might Mary's example in the Visitation scene inspire you to consider others more when you feel overwhelmed in life?
2. Mary, in her prayer known as the Magnificat, models true humility. We learn how she comes to understand what Jesus would later teach: "Without me you can do nothing." If someone observed your life from the outside, would they conclude that you were someone who lived as if they were completely dependent on God? Or would they see someone who trusted more in their own planning, talent and effort?
4. Step 4 -Keep and Ponder
1. How do you respond when you feel you are not treated well or things don't go your way?
2. We have considered how Mary responds to the difficult, humble circumstances surrounding her son's birth by keeping all these things and pondering them in her heart. What does this expression-to keep and ponder in one's heart-mean?
3. What practically can you do to be more like Mary the next time you face difficulty, humiliation or suffering?
5. Step 5 - Sharing in the Sword
1. Forty days after Jesus was born, Mary heard this ominous prophecy about her son's future rejection and death. What do you think it would be like for Mary to carry the burden of such a prophecy from the time of Jesus' infancy and childhood through his adulthood and public ministry?
2. In this chapter, we saw how Mother Teresa encouraged her sisters not to run away from suffering, describing it as an opportunity to draw nearer to Jesus in his suffering. How do you feel about this call to share in Christ's suffering?
6. Step 6 - Walking in Darkness
1. In times when you feel Jesus is lost to you, how might Mary's experience of losing her Son in Jerusalem be comforting for you?
2. And when we experience darkness, how might Jesus' words to Mary-"Did you not know I must be about my Father's house?"-shed light on what Jesus may be doing?
7. Step 7 - Mary's Choice at Cana
1. Mary at Cana is a loving intercessor, looking upon the needs of the wedding couple with compassion and bringing the problem to her Son. How comfortable are you turning to Mary as an intercessor for you?
Step 8 - At the Cross of Jesus
1. In this chapter, we considered how Jesus gives his mother to us as our spiritual mother. Imagine Jesus on Calvary looking you in the eyes and saying what he told the beloved disciple: "Behold your mother." Are you willing to accept Jesus' gift to us of his own mother?
2. What do you think it means to welcome Mary and have a relationship with her as your spiritual mother?
Step 9 - Crowned with Glory
1. Mary is rewarded for her continuous faithfulness all throughout her life. She is crowned with twelve stars on her head (Rev. 12:1). How might Mary's crowning in heaven encourage you to persevere in your own walk with the Lord?
Posted December 5, 2013
I choose this book because Christmas is just around the corner, and I thought it would be nice to examine scripture concerning Mary, because she is the mother of our savior. Mary is only mentioned a couple of essential times in scripture. Each of these times spotlights Mary's devotion to the father. Sri contrasts these key times that Mary appears in scripture to our lives, which answers the question; What is this scripture speaking to us?
When author Edward Sri uses Mary for intercessary prayer he finds a, "..new inspiration and encouragement for my own walk with the Lord and a desire to imitate her more in my life". I found that through Sri's examinations I was able to understand Mary more, and identify with many of her feelings. This is a good book to read if you want to know and understand Mary better. It also explains not only the position Mary has in the Catholic church, but what she offers anyone who meditates on her relationship and devotion with God.
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Posted September 11, 2013
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