Let’s start with the heart – Mary’s heart; St Irenaus, who was a bishop during the second century, said if you were to take all the love of all the holy men and women who have ever lived, and the love of all the angels and combined them into one heart you would still not have Mary’s heart.
Mary is not divine, she is human. The Church does not worship her but venerates her as all humans do to someone who does something exceptional.
As a kid who didn’t have a poster of Michael Jordan hanging on his wall! The famous quote when I was growing up was, “I wanna be like mike.” As far as I know Protestants weren’t screaming blasphemy. Why? Because everybody knew that if you wanted to excel in basketball, Jordan was the man to look up to. If you didn’t make your high school basketball team, no problem, Mike didn’t either. If you needed to learn how to train, look to Mike. His coach said he was the first one to the gym in the morning (even beating his coach) and the last one to leave.
Mike was every boy’s basketball hero and imitating him would help you become great. But if Mike was the basketball superstar, Mary was the LeBron James of Christianity! Why is she a spiritual all-star? It is because Love is the most powerful element in the world and this Jewish girl was the north star of love. Here are a couple examples of her love.
Many have the picture of the Angel Gabriel with golden locks blowing in the wind descending to Mary. They equate Mary’s yes to something as easy as saying yes to a cold beer on a hot summer day. Why wouldn’t she say yes?
In the real annunciation Mary was more like Katniss Everdeen and less like the painting above.
Why? First, Mary was very troubled when the angel came. Maybe in small part due to an angel popping out of nowhere, but it was mostly due to his greeting: “Hail… The Lord is with you.” On the surface level, this seems like the angel saying “What’s up.” But this was a greeting only given to the great saviors of God’s people in the Old Testament. “The Lord is with you” was said to Abraham before he was asked to leave everything at age 75 and travel to an unidentified land to start God’s family. It was given to Moses before he had to approach and challenge the most powerful king in the ancient lands, Pharaoh of Egypt. It was given to Gideon in Judges who was asked to defeat an army of 100,000 with just 300 men.
When the angel greeted Mary this way she knew she was about to be asked to do something that would be great and terrifying like those of Old. What was asked of Mary? To have a baby. Geez no probs; I mean, it’s no picnic but tons of women do it. Not so fast.
First, Mary’s yes to God took the courage of a giant. Mary was betrothed to Joseph. Betrothal was a Jewish engagement except it was not able to be broken. No sexual relations were allowed during betrothal and if a woman was found with child in betrothal she was to be brought out to the city square and stoned to death (see Deuteronomy 22:23). If she said yes to the out of wedlock pregnancy it could very likely turn into a violent death. Stoning was next to crucifixion in regards to pain. For an experience of what a stoning could be like watch The Stoning of Soraya M.
They still stone women to death in some Muslim countries and it is too sad to even think about.
Second, Mary must have loved Joseph beyond what one can imagine. If Mary’s heart was capable of loving another more than all holy men and angels’ hearts combined, then one can’t even imagine her sentiment for Joseph! Mary was only a 14-16 year old girl, and she was asked to become pregnant and risk her relationship with Joseph forever. Joseph was most likely 18 years old and Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich said Joseph was gorgeous! We’re used to seeing Joseph in paintings as some old dude who could barely walk let alone have any sexual desire,
but Venerable Fulton Sheen says this is very far from the truth. This is what he says about Mary and her desire for a husband; “Mary wants men who have something to tame, rather than those who are tame, because they have no energy to be wild.”
Who, reading this can say they put God even before their lover? Even when they are as gorgeous as Joseph and have a heart the size of St. Joesph. Mary can! Mary did not even hesitate in her yes to God! Mary loved God so much that she was willing to risk her love and her life for Him.
Proverbs 31 describes the perfect wife as a woman who “laughs at what is to come.” Mary was this woman par excellence. The saints said the whole heavens were in silence as they awaited Mary’s answer. Without her yes and her courage there was no savior, and without our savior there is no salvation. Most think God would have moved on to the next girl, but that’s not how the saints say God works. We, though small, all have souls to help save and if we don’t cooperate fully with God’s will, there is a chance that they could be lost forever.
St. John Bosco was once given a vision. He saw a huge group of people, so many that he couldn’t even count. St. Bosco asked the Lord who these people were. The Lord said these were the people saved because of St. Bosco’s love. St. Bosco started to slap himself on the back when at that moment he was given a second vision. The second vision was an even larger group of people than the first. St. Bosco asked the Lord who these people were and the Lord replied, “These are the people you would have saved if you had loved even more!”
Needless to say, God gives us each a role in his vineyard of salvation, and if we don’t act to our full potential, souls will be lost. But Mary will never have that second vision, because Mary used every ounce of her God-given talent and courage and said with everything she had: YES! Mary’s courage is the reason for our salvation.