As Christians, we are very familiar with Advent as a season of waiting, but really, our whole life is, essentially, a long season of waiting. Every Advent gives us the opportunity to pause, and very intentionally focus on what we should be doing every day of our lives— getting ready for the coming of Jesus Christ. How are we spending our time in waiting?
Let’s discuss the characters of the nativity, since there is really a lifetime’s worth of study and beauty that we can glean from diving deeper into the mystery of the great Christmas narrative through the experiences of the dynamic characters in play—Joseph and Mary, the Infant Jesus, the shepherds, the angels, the magi, and, as a whole, the Holy Family. The characters of the nativity can each teach us lessons for living our own lives in preparation for Christ’s coming this December, as well as for our own death and Christ’s coming at the end of time.
In this article, We will discuss some of the lessons from the life of Mary.
The Characters of the Nativity and Their Lessons for Living—Mary: Trust and Obedience
Anytime I hear the story of the Annunciation read at Mass or I read it in my Bible at home, I am stunned all the time—by what it must have been like to be Mary, in the presence of an angel, being asked consent by God to carry Jesus into the world. I often think about the tremendous amount of trust she must have had at that moment that fueled her “yes” to God and paved way for the incarnation.
Mary’s first lesson for living that we will discuss is trust.
At the Annunciation, Mary was called to exercise a great deal of trust. Then, at Christ’s birth in a manger in a foreign land…more trust. As Jesus grew, got lost in the Temple, went off to preach and to heal…trust. And then, when Jesus was condemned to die and was crucified as she wept at her only Son’s feet…more, painful trust.
Her whole life, God called Mary to radically trust in His plan for her and for her Son. We, too, are called to have that same radical trust in God. We need to trust Him when our kids wander from the faith when we or someone in our family is diagnosed with a serious disease, when our career status turns from employed to unemployed, when money is scarce, when our marriage is hurting, when our future is not clear or when we feel left by God. In those times, we need to trust that God is there.
Our Mother waits for you to hold her hand in your moments of brokenness, rejection, fear, abuse, betrayal, sickness, and shame. She longs to hold you, and remind you, as she does so beautifully by her own example: trust. Trust that God is nearer to you than ever before. Trust that He has won death and wants you to rely more absolutely on Him.
Mary’s second lesson for living that we will discuss is obedience.
The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen has such a beautiful way of explaining this lesson of Mary that I will simply refer to his words:
“In what does your life consist except two things: (a) Active duties; and (b) passive situations. The first is under your charge; do these in God’s name. The second is outside your control; these submit to in God’s name. Consider only the present; leave the past to God’s justice, the future to his Providence. The perfection of personality does not consist in knowing God’s plan, but in submitting to it as it reveals itself in the situations of life.
“There is really one shortcut to sanctity—the one Mary chose in the Visitation, the one Our Lord chose in Gethsemane—abandonment to the Divine Will.”