When I attended Bible School in 1998-99, I began an incredible journey discovering the depth and the beauty of my Catholic faith. While I have always been Catholic, the second half of my life has offered me an opportunity to begin to understand what that really means and what my faith was all about.
One of the first people I began to read was the late, great Pope John Paul II. JPII was an incredibly holy man with a brilliant mind, and one of the things that struck me was that when he wrote, it seemed as if all of it finished with a dedication or an prayer to Mary.
I was a little confused by this, as I had never really considered Mary beyond the Christmas story, but there she was, in all of John Paul II’s writings, with Church feast days for her birthday as well as many important occasions in her life (like the Annunciation and Assumption.)
I asked questions. I read. I began to pray the rosary more regularly. What I discovered was a beautiful woman who always points to her Son, telling us to “do whatever He tells (us).” (John 2:5)
Mary represents what ideally every Christian life should look like. When God comes to her, when He calls out to her, she answers with a total ‘yes,’ and through this yes, Christ comes into the world. This is a reality in the heart of every Christian: God comes to each of us and calls us, and through our ‘yes’ response, we bring Christ into the world. In Mary’s case, following meant bringing the Son of God into the world, loving Him, caring for Him as a child, and letting Him go into His Passion and death. For us, the mission may seem equally as difficult, since God is asking no less from us. God asks that we trust Him and allow Him to shape our lives. If we are able to do, as Mary did, placing her trust in Him who she loved, than God transforms us and uses us to bring Him into the world.
For John Paul II, this trust was an example to follow. Not only did he write about her, but she occupied a premier place in his life. Having lost his own mother at a very young age, Mary became a surrogate mother to him. Blue (her color) and an M for Mary were prominent on his coat of arms. Hits motto ‘Totus Tuus’ (totally Yours) referenced Mary’s act of faith: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) When He referenced her at the end of his writings or homilies he was simply doing what the Church does: the last prayer of the day in the liturgy of the hours (a daily habit of prayer prayed by priests and religious in the Church) always concludes with a prayer to Mary.
Mary is important. She says yes where Eve said no. She trusts God where Eve trusted the serpent. Most of all, she is a model of Christian living, accepting God’s word, bringing Him into the world, and pointing to Him always. John Paul II keenly understood this, and took her as a companion throughout his life.
As we approach the feast of the incarnation, it is worth taking some time to reflect on this most wonderful woman, whose continued role in the Church is to do what she has always done: say yes to and point to Jesus with her whole being. This is the Christian life, lived as God intends and invites us to live it.