Friday, December 22, 2006

The Gospel According to Mary, Part Four: Emulating Mary

Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived a hero’s journey. She’s surely not alone; many biblical characters can comfortably bear Joseph Campbell’s template. But Mary has proven her heroism. As such, we cannot simply venerate her; we ought to emulate her.

Mary’s heroism is linked to her self-identification as the Lord’s servant. In response to the herald angel she embraces her calling and lives it out in possibly its most challenging way. She attends to Jesus throughout his life, all the while letting Jesus go his own way. She stores up in her heart words and deeds that will over time come to change the course of history. She never leaves her life’s station, in the peasant class of a nation under bondage, but she transcends it nonetheless by enduring trial after trial and standing firm in her attentiveness to her son, her Lord.

Mary’s heroism is not simply a model for us; it’s an invitation. A simple life, we learn from Mary, is no excuse for the abdication of a heroic calling. Mary could be a hero where she was or where the Spirit led her: in Nazareth, in Bethlehem, in Egypt, at the foot of a cross. Mary could be a hero when she was unmarried and pregnant, when her son was embarrassing her, scaring her, breaking her heart.

Our hero’s journey as followers of Christ, as the family of God, will involve this kind of mother’s love, this kind of servant’s devotion. We are called upon to attend to Jesus, to do what needs doing in his service. We are called upon to store up Jesus in our hearts, to acknowledge and remember what he’s promised, what he’s done for us and for others. We are called to stand with Jesus, not drawing our swords but braving the stones thrown at him, attending to him even on the cross. Mary’s son is our son; Mary’s God is our God.

Like Mary we are given the ultimate boon and asked to carry it. Our otherwise normal life is changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As another sort of theotokos, our own hero’s journey thus awaits us, propelled by the strength that the Lord gives us. Like Mary, we may endure many things and see no superficial change to our life’s condition, but one thing will definitely change: we will cross a threshold, we will no longer be satisfied with life on the shelf. We’ll be too busy living a life that others can emulate.

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Merry Christmas from Loud Time. This season may you bear Jesus wherever he wants to take you.

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