Mary, Our Model of Faith
During these weeks of Advent, as we prepare for Christmas, we reflect on the events surrounding the birth of the Lord. In doing so, we cannot overlook the role of the Virgin Mary, who appears as a key figure in the Christmas scene.
Mary is a model of faith for us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that faith is “the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us” (CCC 1814). To better understand what this means in practice, we can look at the life of Mary, whose acceptance of God’s invitation to be the mother of His Son is a great witness for us. By examining the dialogue that took place at the Annunciation, we can gain deeper insight about what it means to have faith.
The Gospel of Luke says that an angel was sent to Mary. The angel appeared to her, saying, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." We are told that Mary “was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”
When the angel announced to Mary that she would conceive Jesus, she responded with a question: "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" Mary did not respond to the angel with blind faith, agreeing to something that she did not understand or rashly accepting something that did not make sense. But nor did she doubt the angel or distrust his message simply because his words were puzzling. Rather, her response was a question, humbly acknowledging to the angel that she did not entirely understand and asking him to explain.
Mary sought to understand more so that she could have the knowledge to properly consent. She asked how such an incredible thing could happen, without doubting that it would take place. This response should guide us in our faith. We are not called to blindly follow Church teachings without understanding them. Rather, we should ask questions, seeking to increase our understanding, while still believing as we do so. Of course, we must be careful to ask the right sources when we have a question about our faith. Asking for explanations from people who are weak in their faith or hostile to the Catholic Church may yield confusion or error. We should turn to those people in our lives who are faithful and well-formed, those who adhere to Church teaching and truly live out their beliefs – those who understand their faith and can lead us to a deeper understanding as well.
The angel responded to Mary’s question by explaining, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” Mary replied by saying, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
The angel’s response explained the Incarnation, but it did not address all of the details surrounding it. Would this happen immediately or at some point in the future? What should Mary tell Joseph? How could God become man? Surely, Mary had unanswered questions. Yet she chose to trust God and accept His will. Part of faith is trust. We must realize that we are finite creatures, and we can never fully understand the plan of God, who is infinite. We can inform ourselves as much as we are able, and then trust God, even if we still do not fully understand. God may not reveal the fullness of His plans to us, but we can still have faith and place our trust in Him.
Mary’s response to the angel, known as her “fiat,” illustrates true faith. She invited God’s will to be done, welcoming all the blessings and challenges that would accompany it. Her wholehearted acceptance of God’s plan for her life would later be reflected by Christ, as he knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying to his Heavenly Father, “not my will but yours be done.” By following in the footsteps of Mary, we can grow in faith. We can ask questions to deepen our understanding of Church teaching, and we can trust God and embrace His will, even when we do not fully understand His plan.
Mary’s fiat at the Annunciation was affirmed throughout her life. At the Presentation in the Temple, Simeon predicted that a sword of sorrow would one day pierce her heart. At the Crucifixion, she stood at the foot of the cross, watching her Son suffer and die. Mary responded to these moments with faith and trust, just as she did at the Annunciation. She embraced God’s will in every circumstance of her life, and in doing so, she provided us with an example of true faith.
This Advent, let us turn to Mary as our model as we strive to grow in our own faith.
Written by Michelle Bauman
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