Rotating Header Image

Listening To Mary’s Voice

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle on “Listen To Your Blessed Mother”


 

“In Listen to Your Blessed Mother, using Scripture and personal stories, author Gary Zimak takes us by the hand and unambiguously leads us to a greater appreciation of our Mother in heaven so that we might strive to imitate her virtues while allowing Mary to take us by the hand to her Son Jesus. Highly recommended!”

(Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, EWTN TV Host and author of sixteen Catholic books including The Miraculous Medal: Stories, Prayers, and Devotions)

Order your copy today and receive a limited time 25% discount!

Listen To Your Blessed Mother Is Now Available!


 

This is a big week for me. On August 7th, I’ll be heading to the Catholic Marketing Network’s annual trade show. This year the show will take place in Somerset, NJ and I’ll be joining a “who’s who” of prominent Catholic authors and personalities as we come together to showcase our latest works. It will be a big thrill to officially debut my latest book, Listen To Your Blessed Mother, and to meet many of the retailers who will be carrying the book.

While at the trade show, I’ll be making several appearances (in person and on the radio). Here is my current schedule:

Author Reception (Grand Ballroom, DoubleTree Hotel)
Wednesday, August 7, 5:15 to 6:45 pm

Author Booth Signings (Liguori Booth #708)
Thursday, August 8th, 3:30 to 4:30 pm

Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo
Thursday August 8th at 9:40 am Eastern

EWTN Radio “Live from the CMN” with Thom Price
Friday August 9th at 10:15 am Eastern

Some people have asked me why I felt the desire to write a book about the Blessed Mother. Aren’t there already many books about Mary? To be totally honest, although several books have been written about Our Lady, there was a void. When I searched for a book that focused on Mary’s words in Scripture, I couldn’t find one. As a result, I felt called to write it. As I started to work on the project, I made the decision to also include all of Mary’s Biblical appearances, even when her spoken words were not recorded. The end result is that through this book, you’ll learn how to “hear” the Blessed Mother speak to you through the pages of the Bible. And her message is POWERFUL!

If you’ve ever wanted to get closer to Mary, if you want to better understand her words in Scripture or if you’re looking for a resource for your prayer group or Bible study, this book is for you. The reflection questions at the end of each chapter will help guide you, as you “listen” to Mary’s voice speaking directly to you. Order your copy (at a 25% discount) by going to the following link and remember to…

Listen To Your Blessed Mother!

“Biblical, personal, engaging, and thought provoking are just a few words that come to mind when reading this wonderful book! The Virgin Mary truly is our BLESSED Mother, and listening to her words in Scripture can help us to become blessed, too. Gary Zimak has done a great service for both Catholics and non-Catholics in offering a book that unpacks the biblical words of Mary in a very conversational and easy-to-follow style. The reflection questions and points to ponder at the end of each section will be of great benefit to the reader, too! I highly recommend this book!”

(Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, STL, Author – Under the Mantle: Marian Thoughts from a 21st Century Priest)

Listen To Your Blessed Mother – She Has A Message For You!


 

For most of my life as a Catholic, I was confused about the role of Mary. While I accepted the fact that she was important to Catholics, I didn’t understand WHY she was important. That changed BIG TIME for me a few years ago when I finally saw the light and accepted her as my spiritual mother. As a result, my life changed drastically and she has brought me closer to Jesus than I ever thought possible. I’d like to tell you about my “Mom” by looking at what is recorded about her in the Bible. I think you’ll agree that she has a powerful message for you!

Here’s what other Catholic authors are saying about my new book, Listen To Your Blessed Mother:

“Biblical, personal, engaging, and thought provoking are just a few words that come to mind when reading this wonderful book! The Virgin Mary truly is our BLESSED Mother, and listening to her words in Scripture can help us to become blessed, too. Gary Zimak has done a great service for both Catholics and non-Catholics in offering a book that unpacks the biblical words of Mary in a very conversational and easy-to-follow style. The reflection questions and points to ponder at the end of each section will be of great benefit to the reader, too! I highly recommend this book!”

(Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, STL, Author – Under the Mantle: Marian Thoughts from a 21st Century Priest)

“Listen to your Mother! How many times did we hear those words growing up? How many times did we roll our eyes and ignore the sage advice only to find out later on that Mom indeed did and does know best, especially our Blessed Mother. Now, straight from Scripture, Gary Zimak has given us even more reason to pay close attention to what our Mother, as in Mary has to say about living a grace filled life in this world so we can be with her and her son in the next. This book will definitely bring you closer to the heart of Christ through the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God.”

(Teresa Tomeo,Syndicated Catholic Talk Show Host,Best Selling Catholic Author)

“In Listen to Your Blessed Mother, using Scripture and personal stories, author Gary Zimak takes us by the hand and unambiguously leads us to a greater appreciation of our Mother in heaven so that we might strive to imitate her virtues while allowing Mary to take us by the hand to her Son Jesus. Highly recommended!”

(Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, EWTN TV Host and author of sixteen Catholic books including The Miraculous Medal: Stories, Prayers, and Devotions)

“With candor and simplicity, Gary Zimak reveals the power of Mary’s words in Sacred Scripture. No matter where you are in your spiritual life — or in your relationship with the Blessed Mother — this book will help you find new meaning and guidance in her words: words that Zimak shows are applicable to any of the problems or decisions you face each day.”

(Vinny Flynn, Author of 7 Secrets of the Eucharist, 7 Secrets of Confession, and 21 Ways to Worship)

“When I was given an opportunity to review Listen to your Blessed Mother, I hesitated only because of the full plate I was dealing with at the time. When I finally dove into this wonderful book, I realized that Gary Zimak has written a beautiful love story about our Blessed Mother and one which needs to be shared with everyone. His description of his growing love of Mary from his childhood to the powerful impact her intercession has had on his life as an adult is riveting. His use of scripture about the Blessed Mother and the few words spoken by her helps the reader share in her life and purpose. The reflection questions at the end of each chapter challenge us to grasp the role of the Blessed Mother in our own lives. I strongly recommend this book!”

(Randy Hain, author of Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith and co-founder of Integrated Catholic Life eMagazine)

“Jesus is our brother, and so his Father is our Father, his mother is our mother. How sad that so few Christians know the perfect maternal love that God has given us in his family. Jesus tells us beloved disciples, ‘Behold your mother.’ What a sweet command! And Gary Zimak has made it sweeter still.”

(Mike Aquilina, EWTN host and author of more than 30 books on Catholic history, doctrine and devotion)

“Gary has given us great insights about our Blessed Mother Mary in Scripture which makes this not only a wonderful book for Catholics but also a great resource for evangelizing those outside the Church. This is definitely a book you can share with your evangelical friends to help them come to know and love our Mother Mary.”

(Gail Buckley, Founder & President. Catholic Scripture Study International)

“It’s such an obvious way to follow Jesus through Mary, that I’m surprised this book was not written before. While some think going directly to Jesus is the fastest and surest way, Gary shows us how wrong that thinking is. He shares his own zig-zag journey to Mary as a way to grow closer to Christ. Though Mary in the Bible, Gary helps us to relish her role in salvation history, reflect on her life, and embrace her love for us.”

(Patti Maguire Armstrong, award-winning author and managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’s Amazing Grace Series)

ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY!!!

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 7 (Her Final Words)

 

As we conclude this series on Mary’s words in Scripture, her advice to the servants at Cana summarizes her faith and how she lived her life. After informing Jesus that “they have no wine”, Mary turned to the servants and uttered her last recorded words in the Bible:

“Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)

Throughout this study, we have listened to the Blessed Mother’s words as she teaches us how to better live our Christian faith:

“How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” (Luke 1:34)

Mary desired to learn more about God’s will for her life. When she didn’t understand what God wished of her, she asked questions. She wanted to please Him in all that she did.

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

The Blessed Mother willingly proclaimed herself to be the Lord’s servant. It didn’t matter what He wanted her to do. That was up to Him. Her only desire was to obey His will.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)

Although Mary was aware of her sinlessness, she knew that her goodness was due to God’s grace. Far from having a low self esteem, Our Lady gave glory to God for working through her.

“Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2:48)

Since Mary never sinned, only Divine intervention could allow her to experience what it was like to be separated from Jesus. As soon as that separation occurred, however, she began seeking Him with great anxiety. She understands the importance of urgently pursuing the Lord once we separate ourselves from His presence.

“They have no wine.” (John 2:3)

With great charity, Mary always looks out for the well being of others. As soon as she observes a problem, she immediately turns to her Son and allows Him to handle the situation in the best way possible.

“Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)

With total confidence that her Son will handle the shortage of wine at Cana, Mary leaves us with a powerful message. Jesus continues to speak through the teachings of His Church and in the pages of the Bible. Often times, we desire to follow our own will and to serve ourselves. That course of action directly contradicts Mary’s final recorded words in Scripture. If we want to achieve our eternal salvation, we must follow her advice to the letter. Whether we find it easy or difficult, we must always…

Do whatever He tells us!

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 6 (The Wedding At Cana)

 

“They have no wine.” (John 2:3)

As I continue with Part of 6 of my 7-part series on Mary’s words in Scripture, the scene shifts to the wedding at Cana. Previously we’ve been looking at Mary’s words as recorded by Saint Luke, but now we’ll focus on Saint John’s writing. When the wine ran out at the wedding, Mary’s four words leave us with a powerful message. More importantly, it was her words that led to Jesus performing His first miracle!

Do you really think Jesus needed to be told of the wine shortage? Since He was omniscient, wouldn’t He already know? There must be a reason that Mary is featured so prominently in this story. In fact, her prominence can be seen at the very start of this story. In what seems like an oddity, Mary is actually listed BEFORE Jesus in the list of guests!

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. (John 2:1-2)

St. John’s detail oriented nature leads us to believe that his ordering of guests is designed to call attention to Mary’s presence at the feast. He wants us to realize that she was present for a reason and that her actions and words are important. That said, why was she there and what could be the purpose of her pointing out the obvious?

An insight into the importance of Mary’s role can be derived by looking at the format of St. John’s Gospel. Immediately, one can observe a strong parallel with the Book of Genesis. Just as in Genesis, John’s Gospel starts with “in the beginning” (Jn 1:1). We then see a series of three “the next day’s” followed by the announcement of the wedding at Cana “on the 3rd day” (Jn 2:1). Some simple arithmetic allow us to deduce that the wedding feast took place on the seventh day, which calls to mind the end of the creation narrative referred to in the Book of Genesis. As our minds are focused on the first book of the Bible (most likely intentionally, as John didn’t include extraneous details), we can’t help but recall the story of the first woman (Eve) who led the first man (Adam) to sin by offering him the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:6). Interestingly enough, in the wedding at Cana, we see a strong parallel IN REVERSE! Unlike Eve, who led Adam to sin thus causing the gates of Heaven to be closed, we see Mary (sometimes referred to as the new Eve) leading Jesus (the new Adam) to perform His first miracle and inaugurate the NEW creation story. Jesus’ mission was to OPEN the gates of Heaven, previously locked by man’s disobedience. If the above parallels are not enough, the fact that Jesus called His mother “woman” (Jn 2:4), solidifies the comparison to Eve and the Book of Genesis.

Another thing that stands out is Mary’s awareness of the situation and her willingness to help. She was obviously paying attention to the happenings at the wedding and, by doing so, noticed the problem (quite possibly, even before the bride and groom). Once she saw that there was an issue, Mary didn’t try to solve it by herself or dispatch one of the disciples to obtain more wine. Instead, she went to Jesus and pointed out the problem. She didn’t demand anything, she didn’t give Him any extraneous details, she simply pointed out that the wine had run dry. In the same way, Mary is watching each of our lives and guess what happens when she notices a problem? You bet…she goes to her Son! In his only Marian encyclical, Blessed Pope John Paul II reflected on the importance of Mary’s role at Cana and in each of our lives:

At Cana in Galilee there is shown only one concrete aspect of human need, apparently a small one of little importance (“They have no wine”). But it has a symbolic value: this coming to the aid of human needs means, at the same time, bringing those needs within the radius of Christ’s messianic mission and salvific power. Thus there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself “in the middle,” that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind, and in fact, she “has the right” to do so. Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary “intercedes” for mankind. (Blessed Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater)

Next week I’ll look at Mary’s final words in Sacred Scripture, “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5).

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 5 (Losing Jesus)

 

Mary: “Where’s Jesus?”
Joseph: “I thought He was with you.”
Mary: “No, I thought He was with you.”
Joseph: “Well, He has to be around here somewhere, so let’s look.”
(Mother Angelica,  Mother Angelica’s Private and Pithy Lessons From the Scriptures)

This humorous snippet of fictitious dialog reminds us that, despite being the parents of the Messiah, Mary and Joseph weren’t given a pass from the worries and difficulties faced by all parents.  When we look at the story of the Finding in the Temple, we can almost feel the helplessness experienced by Mary and Joseph.  Despite being chosen for a monumentally important role, they didn’t have all the answers.  In her discussion of this incident, Mother Angelica notes a very important point about Mary, “She was sinless, but she wasn’t Mrs. Omnipotent”.

Continuing our series on Mary’s words in the Bible, let’s look at one of the most confusing, yet most familiar, of Our Lady’s statements.  After looking for Jesus for three days, Mary and Joseph found Him teaching in the temple.  Scripture tells us that they were “astonished” and records the words spoken by our Blessed Mother:

“Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2:48)

Sometimes we forget just how human Mary was.  Although she never sinned, she wasn’t blessed with the gift of omniscience.  On several occasions, the Bible tells us that Our Lady “pondered things in her heart”.  In other words, just like us, she often had to meditate in order to discern the Lord’s message.  Being the Mother of God didn’t exempt Mary from struggling to determine God’s will.  Rather than lash out or complain, Mary asked a simple question to Her Son…Why have you done this to us?  She was trying to obtain an answer, most likely fearing that she and Joseph had done something wrong.  The second part of her statement also communicates an important piece of information.  Mary and Joseph were searching for Jesus with great anxiety.

There are many ways that we can “lose” the presence of the Lord.  Although He will never leave us, we can use our free will to turn away from Him.  Those of us who have done this know the feeling of emptiness and hopelessness that accompanies our disobedience.  In his book The Glories Of Mary, Saint Alphonsus Liguori wrote, “Souls who have lost God are really miserable and unhappy.  If Mary wept over the loss of her son for three days, how much more should sinners weep who have lost sanctifying grace?” Since Mary had never sinned, she didn’t know what it was like to lose God.  It’s quite possible that the Lord wanted Mary to experience this sense of loss so that she could be a better advocate for those who stray.  This experience of losing Him, the only way possible for one who never sinned, will help her to empathize with those who are lost and enable her to truly become the Refuge of Sinners.

After losing Jesus, Mary and Joseph searched for Him with great anxiety.  How do we respond when we “lose” Him in our own lives?  Is finding the Lord our number one priority?  Sadly, it is often not a priority at all.  According to Saint Augustine, “When they lose an ox they do not hesitate to go and look for it; when they lose a sheep, they leave no stone unturned to find it; when they lose a beast of burden, they cannot rest until they have discovered it; but when they lose God, who is the supreme Good, they eat, drink, and sleep as usual”.

As we meditate upon this sad episode in Our Lady’s life, let’s never forget that she knows what it’s like to be separated from Jesus and can help us to discover Him in our own lives.  Holy Mary, Refuge of Sinners, pray for us.

“There is no sinner in the world, however much at enmity with God, who cannot recover God’s grace by recourse to Mary, and by asking her assistance.” (Saint Bridget of Sweden)

 

 

 

 

 

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 4 (The Magnificat)

 

As we continue our look at Mary’s words in the Bible, the scene shifts from Mary’s encounter with Gabriel (the Annunciation) and moves to her visit with Elizabeth (the Visitation).  After traveling in haste to be with her pregnant relative, Mary is greeted with the words:

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:42-45)

Mary, in turn, responds with the great prayer that we’ve come to know as the Magnificat:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”(Luke 1:46-55)

By listening to Mary’s words and studying this visit with Elizabeth, we see a concise overview of our Blessed Mother’s virtues.  Let’s examine some of them:

1. Mary’s Humility – The humility of the Blessed Mother can be seen in her response to Elizabeth’s words of praise.  Instead of accepting the compliments and taking full credit for her “being blessed”, Mary instead praises the Lord.  She knows that God is the source of her goodness.  That is TRUE humility!

2. Mary’s Gratitude – The words of Mary’s prayer illustrate her gratitude to Almighty God.  Beginning with the initial proclamation of joy for her salvation (Mary needed a savior, but as written by Pope Pius IX in Ineffabilis Deus, she was saved “by a unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Christ”), we see someone who is very grateful for God’s unmerited gift.  Basing her remaining words on the Song of Hannah (1 Sam 2:1-10) and other Old Testament passages, Mary uses her knowledge of Scripture to express a deep appreciation for the Lord’s benevolence.

3. Mary’s Love For Her Neighbor – As soon as Mary discovered that Elizabeth was pregnant, she went “with haste” (Lk 1:39) to visit her.  Not worrying about the inconvenience that goes along with being pregnant and traveling to the hill country, Mary put the needs of Elizabeth ahead of her own comfort.  As a further example of her concern for the well being of others, Mary stayed with her elderly relative for 3 months (Lk 1:56) before returning home.  When one considers what was going on in her own life, Mary’s actions provide us with a tremendous example of what it means to “love thy neighbor” without counting the cost.

4. Mary’s Faith –  Giving us further scriptural proof that Mary embraced and believed the incredulous words of Gabriel, Elizabeth proclaimed “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45)  In his book The Glories Of Mary, Saint Alphonsus Liguori stated that “it was as a tribute to her faith that Elizabeth called Our Lady blessed.”  Mary trusted fully in God and did whatever He asked, thus giving credibility to her words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord”!

5. Mary’s Obedience –  Although some people are disturbed by the term “fear of the Lord”, Mary understands the true meaning of the concept.  When she states “His mercy is from age to age to those who fear Him”, the Blessed Mother acknowledges the importance of obeying God’s commandments as an expression of love! Those who truly love the Lord have a fear of being separated from Him or letting Him down.  That desire to please Him results in obedience.  According to Archbishop Fulton Sheen, obedience “springs from the love of an order and of Him who gave it…Obedience is servility only to those who have not understood the spontaneity of love.” (The World’s First Love)  Mary reminds us that we should obey the Lord because we love Him and don’t want to disappoint Him!

As we read through the words of Mary’s Magnificat, we see a heartfelt profession of faith from someone who was grateful for God’s mercy and providence in her life.  Too often, we take the Lord’s mercy for granted and don’t trust in His providence.  May our Blessed Mother intercede for us and help us to love God with all our hearts and truly “rejoice in Jesus Christ, Our Savior”!

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 3 (Submission)

 

As we continue with Part 3 of a 7-Part series on Mary’s words in Scripture, I’ll be taking a look at the final words of the Blessed Mother to the angel Gabriel.  Last time we focused on Mary’s declaration that she is the Lord’s handmaid (servant).  Essentially, Mary informed Gabriel that she considers herself to be the Lord’s servant.  Furthermore, as a sign that she fully accepts her mission to bring the Savior into the world, Mary adds the words:

“May it be done to me according to your word. ” (Luke 1:38)

A recap of the facts helps to illustrate the profundity of Mary’s statement.  She has just been informed that:

1. She will become the mother of the Son of God while being able to retain her virginity.

2. The virgin pregnancy and birth will come about through the action of the Holy Spirit.

3. Elizabeth (her elderly relative) is now six months pregnant.

4. All of this will happen because “nothing will be impossible for God”.

After hearing the details, most of us would have many more questions and would be begging the angel to stick around.  Mary, on the other hand, heard all that she needed to hear.  In fact, Gabriel’s final statement surely wasn’t news to Mary at all.  To someone with a strong faith, a belief that God can do all things is implied.  Contrasting Mary’s faith with my own faith is painful, but enlightening.  Hardly a day goes by when I don’t question the Lord’s ability to resolve some crisis in my life.  Although the angel’s words are right there in Scripture and they are etched in my memory, I need to get better at believing them.  As long as I’m comparing Mary with myself, there’s another really big difference. Mary didn’t even flinch at the fact that her pregnancy is going to be really difficult to explain to Joseph, her family and to just about all of her other relatives and friends.  That’s because she loved God with all of her heart and TRULY was His servant.  The fact that she was going to be inconvenienced didn’t matter to her.  She meant what she just said about being the Lord’s handmaid.  If He wanted her to do something, she would do it with no questions asked.  Is anyone else feeling really inadequate right now?

Each day, you and I are given the opportunity to say “yes” to God.  Like Mary, we are often asked to submit to His will without knowing all of the details.  Whether it’s being open to having additional children, pursuing a religious vocation or contributing more to charitable causes, the Lord often requests our consent.  Are we so concerned about the details or potential difficulties that we say “no thanks”?  Or, like the Blessed Mother, do we declare ourselves to be the Lord’s servants, trusting in His providence?

While discerning God’s will often requires prayer and meditation, sometimes it’s A LOT easier to discover.  By simply accepting those things that happen to us on a daily basis (at our jobs, in our families, when we become ill), we are saying “yes” to God and following His will.  When asked how to determine God’s will, Mother Angelica replied, “Honey, if it’s happening, it’s God’s will; and you have to correspond with it in the present moment”.  When unpleasant or painful events occur in our lives, we can complain or we can echo the words of Our Blessed Mother…

“May it be done to me according to your word. ”

“Mary was like a wheel which was easily turned by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Her only object in the world was to keep her eyes constantly fixed on God, to learn His will, and then to perform it.” (St. Bernardine of Siena)

Next Time: The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)

Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 2 (Humility)

 

As we continue with Part 2 of a 7 Part series on Mary’s words in Scripture, I’ll be taking a look at a powerful statement made by Mary to the angel Gabriel.  Last time we focused on Mary’s question to the angel after learning that she had been chosen to be the mother of the Savior.  Having made a vow of virginity, Mary was confused as to how God’s will could be fulfilled.  She didn’t doubt that it could happen (unlike Zechariah, who flat out didn’t believe that his wife could become pregnant), she just wanted to know how it would happen so that she wouldn’t have to break her prior vow of virginity.  Mary sought to understand God’s will.  Gabriel answered her question by explaining that it would come about by the power of the Holy Spirit.  He also informed her that her elderly relative, Elizabeth, is now sixth months pregnant.  Then Gabriel gave Mary a great takeaway from their dialog when he stated that “nothing will be impossible for God” (Luke 1:37). Mary’s response to all of this news?

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38)

Because many of us are very familiar with Mary’s statement, we run the risk of overlooking how profound it actually is.  These eight words give us a great insight into Mary’s view of herself.  In this statement, she is saying to God, “I am your humble servant, use me in any way that you wish”.  Unlike many of us, she fully understood that she was merely a creature and that the Lord was her Master.  According to the dictionary, a handmaid is “a servant who serves a useful, but subordinate purpose”.  When Mary refers to herself as a “handmaid”, she is professing her humility.  Despite just having been told that she will be the vessel used to deliver the Savior to the world, Mary referred to herself as a servant.  This profession gives us a glimpse into Mary’s interior attitude and provides an example that is worthy of our emulation.  In his book “The Glories Of Mary”, St. Alphonsus Liguori stated that the first effect of humility is a lowly opinion of oneself.  Even though Mary was aware of her sinlessness, she understood that it was all due to God’s grace.  How important is humility?  St. Bernard of Clairvaux observed that “humility is the foundation and guardian of the virtues”.  More importantly, Jesus instructed us to “learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29).

Without humility, it is impossible for us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Unfortunately, humility is also one of the most difficult virtues to acquire.  As evidence, look at how many times we question events that occur in our lives.  Why is God allowing this to happen to me?  We pray “Thy Will be done” and, at the same time, provide the Lord with a list of acceptable answers to our prayers.  Some even go as far as to disobey teachings of the Church because “they don’t agree with them.”  These positions are all incompatible with the virtue of humility and illustrate a serious misunderstanding of who’s the Creator and who’s the creature!  Although it can be a struggle, we can become more humble by asking for the Lord’s help through Mary’s intercession.  After all, who better to ask then someone who viewed herself as nothing more than the Lord’s servant?

“If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is still humility.  Not that there are no other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts are fruitless.” (St. Augustine)

Next Time: “May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

Listening To Mary’s Voice: Confusion

 

We have been blessed with several Church-approved apparitions of the Blessed Mother throughout the years.  In each of these appearances, Mary has urged repentance and the importance of following Christ’s commands.  As we struggle to lead holy lives, wouldn’t it be nice if Mary could speak to us and give us the necessary encouragement to keep on the right path?  Fortunately, that is entirely possible and it can happen TODAY!  By opening up our Bibles, we can hear the Blessed Mother speak directly to us and help us to grow closer to her Son, Jesus.  Although Mary only spoke on four occasions in Sacred Scripture, each of her statements provides a wealth of information.  By meditating on her words TO EACH OF US, we can become more like her and grow closer to the Lord.  In this, the first of a seven-part series, we’ll be looking at her first recorded words in Scripture…

“How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” (Luke 1:34)

After being told by the angel Gabriel that she has been chosen to be the Mother of the Savior, Mary is confused and asks a simple question.  Given the fact that she (like us) is not divine, there are times when she had questions about God’s will.  Even though she was sinless, Mary didn’t have all of the answers.  We see evidence of this a few verses earlier when (upon Gabriel’s arrival) she “pondered what sort of greeting this might be” (Lk 1:29).  The common belief of theologians throughout the years is that Mary was confused because she had consecrated her virginity to the Lord.  Although not the norm for married people, this practice was not unheard of in Mary’s time.  Always desiring to do what’s right, the sinless virgin proceeded on the course she thought was best…and then the angel appeared with some new information.

How many times are we confused about what God wants us to do?  We struggle to discern His will for our lives and we have questions.  We may feel the urge to take a more fulfilling job, but don’t know how we’ll survive on less pay.  We may feel the call to the priesthood or religious life, but are fearful of giving up the possibility of marriage and children.  We get the idea that maybe we should volunteer and help people, but we don’t know how.  As my own life illustrates, when the Lord calls us to do something, He doesn’t provide all of the details up front.

In addition to those instances requiring us to make a decision, sometimes we aren’t given a choice.  Rather, we are faced with an unexpected illness, devastating personal problems or financial difficulties.  Although these situations occur without our consent, we still may question why they are happening.  How will I survive?  What will I do?  Why is God letting this happen?

Mary’s words to the angel remind us that it’s OK to ask questions.  If you feel that God is asking you to do something, but you’re not sure how it’s possible, go ahead and ask Him for details.  Mary did.  If you’re carrying a heavy cross and can’t understand why, ask the Lord to enlighten you.  Unfortunately, I can’t promise that you’ll get the answer you want.  Instead, the Lord’s answer may be, “trust me”.  If that’s the case, you may be asked (like Mary) to go along with His plan without knowing all of the fine details.  If you have a difficult time doing that…join the club!  However, don’t ever forget that Mary can help you tremendously.  As someone who’s “been there, done that”, she knows exactly what you’re going through.  Turn to her and ask her to share some of her faith with you.  I can guarantee you that, as stated in the Memorare, “never was it known that anyone who fled to her protection, implored her help, or sought her intercession was left unaided.”

Next Time: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.” (Luke 1:38)