Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Handmaid of the Lord

I am trying to gain understanding of Mother Mary as Catholics see her role now. The pure young woman whom the Angel Gabriel visited and said, "Full of Grace! The Lord is with you," is known to all Christians. The young woman betrothed to a good man, bearing her child in a stable as portrayed in Nativity Story, I love. But I do not understand Mary's role now. Just as I struggle when I read the Book of Revelations, so I falter while reading accounts of Marian Prophesies.

I was confessing this to my friend Dana this past week, and she said that when she thinks of Mary she thinks of the woman who said, "Yes." This is what the Liturgy of the Catholic Church so often brings to mind, she pointed out. Mary said yes, when, as my friend pointed out, she was probably terrified, but she chose faith and trust in God in spite of any fear or personal reservations.

My good friend then added that when she reflects upon Mary saying Yes, it helps her to be a better Christian. Her inclination, she confided, is almost always to say No. She wants to say No. But then she recalls Mary, and it changes to alright...yes!

That I could grasp. For how many in the Bible questioned God and tried to deny His Will was possible? How often do I myself question God, squirming in my fear and uncertainty and self-preservation? And how many times have I said no or maybe....but what's in it for me? This is what society is trying to tell us all now in various "self-help" articles: the better way is to learn to say No! and to grab as much "Me time" as you can. This is a false road, but how tempting it is!

Let me explain a mistake I made recently, a time when I did not just say yes. A friend asked me to volunteer with her at our children's school. I was to write the newsletter for the parent volunteer organization. She was excited when she called me and told me that she thought I would be great for the job, that the principal agreed with her. But almost as soon as I heard the suggestion, I began to reflect on me. What would this opportunity bring me? How would it help me achieve my writing goals? How many new readers might I pick up from such an endeavor? In short, I was concerned only with myself - not the needs of the school, not helping to make my friend's load lighter. Selfishness reigned.

Eventually I did say a yes, but. I angled for a spot where I could write a short piece in every newsletter to highlight my writing or at least link to my blog. She was confused, but she agreed.

That next week, after things began to move more quickly than expected, my friend wrote me an email requesting my help. I told myself I would get back to it later after I had more time to consider the responsibility. I also did not recognize that she wanted my help right then. She left me a phone message, too, and again I told myself I would get back to her. But that whole weekend I did nothing.

My friend had to move forward on the project without me. She wrote me another email which I did not see until too late. In it she expressed her disappointment that I was not there when she needed me to be. She was right to admonish me. I did not just say Yes! and respond to a request. I hedged; I was selfish.

I tried to repair my damage later. I apologized profusely in emails and left a phone message. That is how it goes when you obey an inclination to say no to the opportunity to do good for others. I let my friend down. I broke trust, and our friendship is still not what it was. It is all my fault. The opportunity to strengthen our friendship has passed.

What is so terribly ironic about it is this: when my husband needed her to take our youngest children while I was in the hospital after our car wreck, she said Yes. She came quickly. She comforted our kids, distracted them and fed them. What a blessing from God that was! Through her.

So when Dana told me that she thinks of Mary as the pure woman who said yes to God, I thought almost immediately of how I said uh, maybe to my friend and then said no through my subsequent actions. I lacked faith; selfishness never leaves room for it.

In light of my sin, then, I understand more fully how amazing it was that Mother Mary said yes to such an extraordinary and strange plan. I need her to pray for me. She knows how to say yes. God needed a humble girl to say yes to his plan. He needs us to do the same.

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