Our God is not an idea. He is not some grand concept, just meant to make us feel good when we’re down, or a judge Who we can only know when we’re feeling guilty about something. Nope, our God is a person. He is a Someone who wants to know us and wants us to know Him. There are so many ways we can see this, and so many ways we can be distracted from this. God not only writes Himself into our stories, He speaks our lives and our stories into being. And as if that isn’t enough, He has given us His Mother.
Mary can be a touchy subject. We Catholics are accused of worshiping her, and there certainly is temptation of letting her get in the way of meeting Jesus, of thinking Jesus doesn’t care of us, but Mary does. And it can get so confusing to see so many different images of Mary as she comes to different people, from looking Native American, to Croatian, to African, to Vietnamese, and so much more. But this all tells us so much about who she really is. Who she is. She wants to come to us and meet us where we are at. Don’t let Mary become just another “doctrine” or an argumentative point in Catholic apologetics. We need to let her become a someone in our lives, because that’s who God has meant for her to be for us.
This has been on my heart a lot lately, for a few reasons. First, on the first day of Camp this year, I started up again making the 33 day preparation for Marian Consecration that I did last year. So every day I get to read again some little gem about who Mary is and who she can be in our lives. Also, when at Camp, knowing I was going to give a workshop on Vocations, I was pleasantly surprised to get the chance to kind of think out loud for a while about how Mary helps each and every one of us not only in our daily lives, but our whole vocations. I even got to tell the Archbishop the next day that you teens are hungry to know not just more about Mary, but to know her. And one more way she has been moving my heart recently is a little Bible verse that caught my eye on a friend’s bathroom mirror when I was spending the night there: “Is God indeed to dwell on earth? If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this house which I have built?” (1 Kings 8:27).
Now we could take this technical, exegetical approach to what this verse means, and find out that on the surface and think this is all there is to it, that these words are just the words of King Solomon dedicating the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, a promise that was made by his father David, and which he was able to fulfill. Or we can imagine Mary herself, a teenager, terrified but faithful, as the angel Gabriel, with eyes like fire, told her she was going to give birth to Jesus, to God. Can’t we just feel, with Mary, as the presence of God in the angel Gabriel overwhelms us, our hair stand on end, and our questioning of how this can be possible, but knowing that God wants us to encounter Him, and he wants to encounter us? So He is conceived and so He is born. And so Mary says yes, we say yes.
This is where we meet Mary! Don’t let the stories of Mary in Scripture just stay on the page! We can bring her into our lives in so many ways. We hear how her faith and love were made so concrete in the Annunciation, that they become a child in her womb. As a seminarian growing into a priest, I can see the Eucharist in her yes and her conception. Just as her faith brought Christ into the world, so can the priest’s. Boy, that is a lot to live up to, but we have no better example, no better hand to guide us than Mary. How about you? What in your life, in your family, in your friendships, needs you to let your faith be so strong that it becomes so concrete?
And another favorite story of mine is the Visitation, which we just heard at Mass last Thursday, on the Solemnity of the Assumption. Mary, a pregnant woman, full of life, God’s own life, “travelled to the hill country in haste.” (Luke 2: 39). Blessed John Paul II called Mary in this story a living monstrance, a living tabernacle. Just like we see Christ in the Eucharist, in the monstrance during a procession, so Mary took Jesus with her to celebrate God’s victory over death, His breaking into this world. After Mass, with Christ in us, do we follow Mary’s example? Do we make haste to help our family, or even strangers? Are we joyful in doing so?
And so our Blessed Mother is like a Temple, like a Tabernacle, like a Monstrance, even like the Moon: her light is not her own, but she reflects the light of Christ. And that is who God wants us to meet, to let take our hands and guide us. So next time Mary seems a little out of reach, or like it’s weird to love her so much, or trust her so much, remember this: nobody can love Mary more than Jesus does, and if we’re going to try to be like Jesus in all we do, why would we not talk to His mother, trust His mother, love His mother, our Mother.