By: Peter Strickland
Anyone who has asked God to help them make big decisions in their life knows that there is a risk involved, because, many times, God does not explicitly direct us down a path. We pray and pray and we find ourselves staring at two paths, both good, still not knowing which exact one God wants us to take. Here, many people freeze and panic. God does not want us to panic. He only wants goodness and peace. It is in the moments of fear and panic that we can learn much from the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Throughout Mary’s life, there were many opportunities for Mary to panic and freeze or, perhaps, choose the wrong path. However, time and time again, Mary took a faithful risk and chose to trust that God was doing good in her life. First at the Annunciation, Mary was visited by an angel and told that she would be the mother of God. Pause, take a second to realize what is being asked of her. She is being asked to allow God to use her to be His mother. Rightfully so, she is confused and says, “’How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’” (Lk 1:34) Then, the angel, Gabriel, says, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” In this explanation, Mary is encouraged to overcome her fear, rely on the holy Spirit and accept God’s invitation. To which Mary says, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)
Later, Mary, while in her third trimester, traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem to participate in a census. In the Gospel of Luke, there is no reference to the trepidation Mary must have been feeling, but again imagine having to walk or ride a donkey for days while six to nine months pregnant. Mary must have felt so overwhelmed but trusted that God would care for her without any assurances from God. At that time, she took a risk and trusted in the Holy Spirit.
Then, when Jesus was presented in the Temple, we must ponder the words of Simeon. Simeon says to Mary, “’Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’” (Lk 2:34-35) These are heavy words. Your son, whom you already know is the son of God, is going to cause social unrest. And, the great pains he feels you too will feel. Mary must have pondered this greatly. Mary knew there would be great pain and social unrest and would experience all of it in a most intimate way. Most would run as far away as fast as they could. However, Mary, in faith persevered through all to follow God.
Finally, Mary shows us great trust when Jesus left her and Joseph at the age of twelve. Imagine losing your child for three days. Many parents freak out if their child disappears in the mall for a few seconds. This was three days in a time where immediate communication and tracking a phone was impossible. When Luke recounts this story, he describes the mental state of Mary in strong details. Mary says, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Luke further explains Mary and Joseph do not understand Jesus’ explanation. But, Mary continued to ponder these things. Raising the son of God is a daunting task. Mary did not understand with certainty how to do so. She persevered, though, trusting that God was blessing her and inviting her to goodness.
Throughout our lives, we walk with uncertainty. We do not have perfect certainty in discernment. Sometimes we choose a path to find great difficulties. Other times, the path we thought God was beckoning us down becomes impossible. In these moments, we must trust that God is doing some good in our lives. We may have to pivot, we may have to accept that we were incorrect in our discernment, but God never abandons us even if we choose the wrong path. “Do not fear or be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:9) Follow Mary’s example and take a faithful risk.