According to a long-standing tradition, Mary was only fifteen years old when the angel Gabriel announced to her that she would be the Mother of God. Imagine God choosing someone so young to take on such a great responsibility of bearing the Son of God. What an incredible woman Mary must have been. She must have been wise and mature beyond her years to be called to such an exalted role.
Besides her wisdom and holiness, this young girl’s most important virtue was her humility. Though she had questions for the angel, she accepted what he said and was willing to give herself over to God’s plan. She did not negotiate with Gabriel. She did not ask, “If I do this for God, what is He going to do for me.” Rather she put aside her own will to say yes to God’s will.
Just as Mary taught Jesus how to walk and how to speak, she would have taught Him how to pray. She would have taught Him to have a great love for God’s word and for His temple in Jerusalem. But, most of all, she would have taught Him to seek God’s will in all things and to say yes of whatever His Heavenly Father would ask of Him.
Mary was a good teacher, because we see throughout Jesus’ life a willingness to embrace God’s will. When He teaches the disciples to pray, He includes the words, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And when He is lying prostrate in the garden overcome with anguish at the thought of dying for a sinful humanity, He prays as His mother taught Him: “Not my will but your will be done.”
If Mary can teach Jesus how to seek out and do God’s will, she can also teach us. Not only did Mary say yes to being the mother of the Savior, she also said yes to being our Mother at the foot of the cross when Jesus pointed to Saint John and said, “Behold your Son.” Jesus has entrusted us to the care of His own Mother. Now that her work on earth is complete, in heaven she watches over us and prays for us. She wants nothing else than to take us by the hand and lead her to her Son.
One powerful way that Mary teaches us to say yes to God’s will is through the rosary. When we pray the rosary, we are meditating on the mysteries of God’s plan of salvation. We are pondering the events of Jesus’ life and are inspired by His love and generosity. As we pray along with Mary, we come to see how those mysteries are at work in our own lives. We come to understand that just as in the first joyful mystery Mary is called to embrace God’s plan, so we are called to put our own plans aside to follow Jesus. We see in the fourth sorrowful mystery that just as Jesus embraced His cross, so our burdens and difficulties can be a means of salvation for us and the world if we embrace them with faith and offer them up to God in love. As Blessed John Paul II said so beautifully, the rosary is Mary’s school teaching us how to love and follow her Son.
As the new year approaches, one resolution we should make is to pray the rosary every day. If we could gather our whole family each night for this powerful prayer, even better. Our Lady promises tremendous blessings and graces to us when we devote ourselves to this beautiful prayer. She assures us that she will obtain for us from her Son whatever we may ask of her. She promises that we will find the strength to turn away from all sin and to burn with greater love for our Heavenly Father. And she promises that at the hour of our death she will ask her Son to have mercy on us. Along with receiving the sacraments and studying the scriptures, praying the rosary is a powerful way to grow in holiness and to learn from Mary how to say yes to God’s will.
Often people are discouraged from praying the rosary because they find themselves getting distracted as they pray. Instead of focusing on the mysteries or on the prayers, their minds start to drift off. This is very natural. Even Saint Therese of Lisieux complained that she struggled to fight off distractions when she prayed the rosary. However, we should never allow our human weakness to discourage us from praying. God accepts our prayers no matter how feeble they may seem to us. When a two year old starts saying words for the first time, even though they are mispronounced, we laugh and encourage the child. Just so, when we pray to our Heavenly Father, He takes delight in it just as we would in that small child who is just learning how to talk. And just as that child will eventually learn how to speak correctly by practicing, so we will grow in our ability to pray by praying more. Every day we will make some progress in our ability to focus on the prayers and the mysteries, even though at times we may fail to see it. It is when prayer is difficult that we will make the most progress. And we can always pray with confidence because Mary promises to bring those prayers, no matter how feeble, to the throne of her Son.
Because Mary said yes to God’s will, we will celebrate the birth of Jesus this week. We have been preparing through these past four weeks to make a place for Him in our hearts and homes and to receive Him with joy. Because, like Mary, Jesus said yes to God’s plan, we have the great blessing this day of receiving His body which He gave for us and His blood which He poured out for the forgiveness of our sins. Now God is waiting for our yes. He wants to do great things in and through us. Let us ask Mary to teach us how to entrust ourselves to God’s will so that we can experience all the blessings He has prepared for us.
(image by Marisol Sousa)