It is quite easy to define the Virgin Mary as the most appropriate role model for the Christian. After all, she was the first disciple and the first evangelizer of the Lord Jesus Christ. She was the first missionary and the first Christian of the Church of Christ. She was there in the upper room, leading and guiding the scared disciples in prayer as they awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit. She was present at the most significant events in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. These were great events in the history of our salvation history, and our blessed mother was witness to it all. St Augustine was convinced that our Lady conceived Christ in her heart before she conceived Him in her womb.
As missionary Christians, we too must bear Christ in our hearts before we can go out to proclaim the Good News to all the world. Thus we listen to St. Augustine praising her faith and obedience and setting before us the spiritual relationship she had with her Son as the example for us to follow. Living this Christian life will be much easier if we follow the example that Mary presents to us by her own life. She lived with Christ in every moment – whether physically or spiritually. We look to her, in imitation of her, and we also will experience the Lord Jesus be it physically or spiritually.
As for St. Bernard, much as our Lady was pleasing to God because of her virginity, it was through her humility that she conceived Him. Her primary role as indicated by Angel Gabriel was that of being Mother to the Son of God. In her motherly figure, Mary exemplifies strength of godliness, strength of faithfulness and maternal instinct. As she portrays traits of holiness, piety, and humbleness, Mary teaches the importance of trust in God and perseverance in faith. Of all mothers, she is the one who raised a perfect Man. This qualifies her as the mother of all mothers because she is the mother of Jesus Christ. All mothers should look up to her as the ultimate mother figure because she was specifically chosen by God to be the Mother of the Son of God.
Contemplating the character of Mary communicates the importance of trusting in the Lord. Mary’s faith was tested when the angel of the Lord informed her that she would miraculously give birth to the Saviour. Given her betrothal to Joseph and her professed state of virginity, it would not have surprised if she did not believe the angel’s message. However, Mary listened to the angel with acceptance because she knew and trusted that God had a plan for her. Even later on, when Joseph received the warning from a dream, Mary did not dismiss it as nothing. In profound humility, she again trusted in God and fulfilled His command without question. Hers was a blind obedience endowed with mortification in all things. We have consolation in Mary’s ability to persevere through many trials in her life, and yet never losing sight of the Lord. She had complete trust in God and a strong will to overcome all manner of obstacles and setbacks. These came in handy on the way to Calvary as she stood by Jesus when He faced persecution.
She witnessed Jesus abandoned by His disciples, betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, whipped and ridiculed by Roman soldiers, rejected by the very people He came to save, and later, doubted by Thomas. But Mary persevered in all this. She certainly experienced sorrow and may be even despair; but she always trusted in the Lord. She knew nothing was impossible for God. We have our consolation in Mary’s holiness, piety and humility because God’s expectations of His people have never changed. We must put effort in being holy and putting our best effort in fulfilling God’s purpose for us. Looking to Mary consoles us in this; for we know God is always faithful, and He will see us through it, too.
We are encouraged that God rewards good behavior and bestows good things on people who choose to live in the light. Mary’s relationship with God was a holy relationship that makes her the Queen of all Saints. Although she was personally entrusted with the responsibility to raise Jesus as an honorable and virtuous man, she never questioned His authority. Mary was profoundly humble, and was content to being a lowly handmaid of the Lord. Despite thinking herself to be unworthy of the task of Motherhood, she took up this responsibility with dignity and enthusiasm.
We also find consolation in Mary’s submission to God. She risked losing Joseph; she faced being labelled a social outcast; she had taken the vow of perpetual virginity and had no knowledge of man. Yet she committed without any hesitation to having it done as said (cf. Luke 1:38). Mary was deeply spiritual and a devout worshipper as demonstrated in the profound and powerful words of the Magnificat. She was gifted with continual mental prayer, remaining mostly thoughtful as she kept many things and pondered them in her heart. We also appreciate Mary’s ardent charity. Apart from going in haste to the hill country to visit Elizabeth, her thoughts were always centered on the poor, humble, oppressed people of God. This is also demonstrated in her attentiveness and prompt action at Cana.
The Blessed Virgin Mary was gifted with heroic patience. We have our consolation in the example of her whole life as a continual exercise of patience. We can see how she suffered having to travel to Bethlehem; her delivery in the stable for lack of room in the inn; her flight to and stay in Egypt; her return to Nazareth; her losing of the child Jesus; her early loss of Joseph, her beloved husband; her meeting with suffering Jesus on the way to Calvary; her witness of Christ’s death at the foot of the Cross; her praying with frightened disciples in the upper room. It was by her constant and sublime patience that she brought us forth to the life of grace.
We are consoled to know that we can only preserve patience if we endure the afflictions of this life with patience and joy; for this slight momentary affliction prepares us for an eternal weight of glory that is beyond all measure (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:17). Remembering always that Mary is the comforter of the afflicted and remedy of all sorrows of the heart, we must have recourse to her as our consolation.
This lesson comes to its end a tad too soon, but I cannot help but think of how truly pathetic I am when I compare my lived Christian life with Mary. Yet I find consolation in knowing that I can pray and work on growing in these virtues one at a time, under the care of this same Mary. I will imitate her ardent charity by trying to let my love for God be the driving force behind every decision that I make. I will try to emulate her profound humility by remembering that before God, I am really nothing, but mere dust.
That universal mortification that came so naturally to Mary will surely be a tall order for me, but I will most certainly try to lay down my life and my will before the Lord God at every moment. I know that this will not be easy, but always being aware of God’s presence will grow me in constant mental prayer. Here comes another of those easier said than done resolutions of following God’s call in blind obedience without counting what it will cost. Yet I have hope that I will always beg for God’s Spirit to guide me in divine wisdom. And the Lord Jesus Christ who has called me from out of the darkness, will provide me with His Spirit.
Try to Be Like Mary
Therefore, no matter what my state in life is, I purpose to try to be like Mary in her surpassing purity by having this heart of mine immaculately clean and unstained by sin through the regular visit with the Lord Jesus in the confessional. Then will I hope to radiate joy and peace to everyone that I encounter because I will have her angelic sweetness. Constantly seeking God’s will and never settling for complacency will surely bring me to a lively faith. And with heroic patience, always trusting that God is on the move will help me to have more faith in His plans than in my own. Much as it all seems so daunting, I find consolation in knowing that all this is possible because Mary is help of Christians!
Adapted from the book, Rediscover Mary – our Consolation by Fr. Mogwanchi Evans, IMC and Dr. Pamela Mandela Idenya.