|Rev. Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.|
One question that recurs tormenting the heart of many is "Why me?" An unexpected turn of events in life shatters one’s entire self confidence. The individual looking around gets the impression that for all others’ life goes on smoothly and so begins to feel isolated in his or her unfortunate predicament. An educated person who has to support the family, on losing his job suddenly, would be shaken up and finds the entire future bleak. A caring mother who comes to know that her son is having an unholy relationship will be totally broken - wondering where she failed for this unspeakable tragedy to take place. A loving wife on hearing that her husband is affected by cancer would be struck down by grief and incomprehension. A student who fails to get the results he worked hard for loses all hope and interest for the future. A religiously devout couple meeting with a financial breakdown in their business could get upset that God has let them down. We hear of such situations all the time and the secret prayer in every heart is that one should be shielded from any such mishap. On the other hand, anything going wrong with our life will trigger off torrents of fear that had been accumulated in our hearts over the years.
“You Have Found Favour With God” (Luke 1:30)
The greatness of this young lady of Nazareth is that in a moment of distress, she was able to look beyond and perceive that God was greater than her problem. This surrender was praised by Elizabeth, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45) In this faith, she stands in sharp contrast to the first woman Eve. Eve was also disturbed when she was tempted to reject God’s offer of life and accept satan’s offer of sin. At this moment of confusion, she made the mistake of not turning to God. In that failure she opened her life to disaster. This is what happens when we fail to perceive the Call of God in the difficult moments of our life. What could be a point of entry into an exalted and celebrated existence in the history of salvation, we despise and reject - dragging ourselves down to destruction.
Mother Mary teaches us how the Holy Spirit works on us. Though she was unable to figure out how she could conceive and bear the Son of God, the Spirit of God reveals to her that this was God’s Plan. Hence she was able to understand and accept her pregnancy as an unfolding of the Plan of God for the history of the salvation of man. She was also able to realize that nothing was impossible to God. Though she was a virgin, in the Power of the Holy Spirit she would be able to conceive. Once this realization dawned on her, all the fears vanished and she was able to rejoice and sing to the Lord, “My soul rejoices in God my Saviour… the Almighty has done great things for me.” (Luke 1:46-49)
“I Will Not Leave You Desolate” (John 14:18)
In fact Jesus has revealed to us the nature of the Holy Spirit and how He functions in our day to day life. Jesus gives three titles to the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, and as such He leads us to the whole truth - “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13) The whole truth of an event in our life is its relevance in the Plan of God. St. Paul tells us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) When Mary received the revelation that she would conceive and bear a son, she waited in prayer to understand the meaning of her pregnancy in the Light of God’s Plan for her. She opened her heart to what the angel said to her that her son would be the Messiah promised from all eternity to save humankind - “You shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David and He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33)
Jesus also refers to the Holy Spirit as “Power from Above” (Luke 24:49). Because of this Heavenly Power, the angel assured Mary, “With God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:37) She believed that her virginity will flower into motherhood in the action of the Holy Spirit. She also believed that her pregnancy will be shielded from the dreadful fate of death by stoning.
The third title that Jesus gave to the Holy Spirit is ‘the Comforter’. “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.” (John 14:16) Though humanly speaking she had all the reasons to be tormented by fear and anxiety, as she was anointed by the Comforter and she was able to rejoice and praise God for His working in her life.
“Gold Is Tested In The Fire” (Sirach 2:5)
The strife of Mary did not end with the Magnificat song. Much more was at hand. At the time of the delivery of her first born, she did not have the comfort of family around her. She had not even a secure place to give birth to the child! After a long strenuous journey, she reached Bethlehem to find every door slamming on her face. She had no choice but to opt for the unthinkable - a stable where the animals were kept. Chosen by God yet rejected by humanity, the Holy Family was no stranger to homelessness. In this hidden cave, they would receive guests from afar and near - wise kings and simple shepherds - all narrating the glorious visions that guided them to worship the Messiah. Everything happening was beyond comprehension. On the one hand, the young couple in great need would only meet with the coldest and most unfeeling rejection from human beings. On the other hand, there was a tremendous overflow of love from Heaven with the Promises being fulfilled and the great mission being confirmed and reconfirmed through the most unlikely visitations. Renewing her commitment to God, “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
Hunted by a furious king, where did this poor family stand a chance? They flee their homeland through a long desert journey of cold nights and scorching hot days. What lay ahead was not very hopeful - their lot being of refugees in a pagan country. Their unquestioning obedience continued even as they were asked to return and live in uneventful oblivion. Jesus behaved like any other boy, with no indication of Messianic destiny. At the age of twelve, however, He stayed back in the temple without informing His parents or anyone in the caravan. Mary and Joseph found their son missing from the caravan. They rushed back to Jerusalem and searched through the crowded city for three long days in what must have been the most harrowing time of their life yet! On finding Him, the response of the boy was still more unnerving, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” Unprepared for such a response Mary “kept all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51) The heart is where the Holy Spirit dwells. That is where she turned to at this difficult hour to make sense of God’s Plan for her.
The years of His glorious ministry had its own shadows. There was much exhilarating news of the many healings, good works and compassion He radiated, heralding the Kingdom of God and giving great hope to an enslaved nation. There was also much animosity from the religious leaders and fearful opposition which would ultimately see Mary at the foot of the Cross. In the shadow of condemnation could this mother see the promise of salvation? She offered up her Son back to the Father, accepting the whole of humankind as Her children from the Cross, to continue forever what she did at Cana - bringing to her Son the needs and tears of a suffering humanity.
“My Grace Is Sufficient For You, For My Power Is Made Perfect In Weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Mother Mary reveals to us what the Holy Spirit does in our lives when we open our heart for Him to dwell in us. We will not be the victims of the slavery to partial truths that the intellect can afford to offer. Our achievements will not be confined by our limited capabilities. We will not be subjected to any sort of emotional distress that unfortunate situations will bring. Our total surrender of whatever happens to us will give us a Heavenly Joy of being supple instruments in the Hands of God for His grand design for the salvation of this world.
It is in this anointing of the Holy Spirit that. St Paul was able to say - “What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel… my imprisonment is for Christ; most of the brethren because of my imprisonment… are much more bold to speak the word of God.” (Philippians 1:12-14) Paul is not bitter about his sufferings; rather he is able to see God’s superior plan getting furthered through his torturous circumstances. St. Peter, though he was publicly humiliated and flogged, he did not grudge his pain but was found “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” and continued zealously to proclaim Jesus. (Acts 5:41)
I remember meeting a man who came to me carrying his son who was affected by cerebral palsy. The boy had to be personally cared for always. The father was a school teacher. His wife died at the birth of this boy. His elderly mother would look after the boy when he was away in the school. With great love, he cared for every need of the boy. He told me that the death of his wife was a great blow to him. But he never regretted being given the responsibility of this child. I asked him whether he would have been happier if he had a normal and healthy child. With a smile he replied that this option did not exist in the mind of God. He said he was always conscious of the special call he received as he said, “God wanted to give me a special child as God gave Mother Mary a special child who God knew would die a brutal death at a young age.” What impressed me was the calm manner with which he had accepted this unfortunate situation. He could understand in prayer his role in the Plan of God to bring up this child - who would never be like all the other children he would constantly be in touch with as a teacher. His vision of life was centered on God alone.
Mother Mary by her faith commitment to God became the most “blessed” (Luke 1:42) and “highly favoured in the eyes of God” (Luke 1:30) Her assumption to heaven was a gift God gave to her and an inspiration to everyone in the path of faith to be always faithful to God.
Let Us Pray
O God of Glory before whom no shadow of pain and failure can linger, we praise You for the gift of Mother Mary to guide us in our lives. You have exalted her that we may walk through the valley of shadows in the courage and wisdom She offers. We bring to You, O God, every disappointment in our life that has been and that is to come. We grieved over these losses and gave up on life and on a future. Yet O God, Your Spirit reveals that every such painful moment is a seed of glory planted in our life. Anoint us O God with Your Spirit that we, Your servants and handmaids, may walk in the strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit as our Mother did. We thank You, Lord, for Your Plan for our life and that this Plan is so much superior to our own little ideas and calculations. May Your Will be done in us and may we glorify You at all times.