As a child, I was always fascinated by the story of the Angel Gabriel coming to visit Mary, a humble young lady from Nazareth.
Here was Mary, a young woman engaged to a man named Joseph. She, like all of us, had hopes and dreams for her future: to get married, start a family, and lay down roots somewhere to live out the rest of her days. But instead, God radically changed her life by asking her to be the Mother of God.
“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:31-32)
After some back and forth with the Angel Gabriel, she gave her consent: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord. May it be done unto me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
Her decisive “yes” captivated my childhood imagination. I knew she was meant to be a model for entrusting our whole lives into God’s hands. After all, my parents, my religion teachers, and my priests constantly mentioned how remarkable she was. But as I grew older, I began to wonder how feasible this actually was: to follow in her footsteps and give our yes.
Mary said yes to something immense: To bear the Son of God, the saviour of the whole world, in her womb. I looked at my own life with frustration and despair… There were so many ways that I failed at giving my own yes to God: Not showing kindness to my neighbour. Choosing another episode of The Office over praying with Him. Putting my own career aspirations ahead of the path He was calling me to. In the big and small ways, I said yes to my own desires and ignored His promptings in my heart.
As I continued to fall short, over time Mary seemed like a distant figure. We call her the Mother of God and the Mother of us all, but suddenly this maternal figure seemed impossibly out of reach.
How could I relate to Mary, who was born without sin and seemingly perfect in every way, when I couldn’t even say no to a TV show?
I brought this up with a priest one time. With a smile, he reminded me that despite her perfection and grace, Mary was still human. Like us, Mary had questions. She had fears and anxieties. Despite everything, she put aside her fears and put her trust in the Lord. This afforded her incredible intimacy with God, which is something each and every single one of us is called to. God doesn’t want us from a distance; He wants to be right there with us, loving us and embracing us despite our fears, anxieties, and sins.
Hearing of Mary’s humanity provided a new way for me to connect with God. Like a loving mother, Mary gathers up our intentions, our hopes, and our struggles into her own arms and brings them to God on our behalf. She desires nothing more than for us to draw close to God and will do everything in her grace to help us get there.
I have this picture that helps me.
When I close my eyes and think of my relationship with Mary, I can see myself as a bashful and shy young child who spent hours drawing the best picture for God. But given my shyness, I show it first to my mother, Mary. With bursting joy, she walks with me to see God. As she presents my art to God, I hide behind her mantle but peek out just enough to see His reaction.
The drawing is nothing spectacular, maybe something obscure drawn with crayons on construction paper. It isn’t perfect but it’s an effort. It’s enough. My offering to the Father, though small, is further magnified by the grace and joy of Mother Mary. My words in prayer to God, though sometimes small and filled with anxiety and fear, are bolstered by her grace.
Growing our relationship with Mary allows us to grow stronger in our relationship with God.
As we say yes to the smaller decisions in our life, Mary continues to give us more grace to say yes to the larger decisions.
No matter how big or small your choice seems, we can look to Mary for guidance in obedience and humility. Like the tender mother she is, we can tell her anything and she will hear us. We can bring her any problem and she will work through it with us. And when it comes to going to the Father, Mary will be right by our side as we go see Him.