I spent Thursday evening through Sunday afternoon at Christ the King Retreat house in Buffalo, MN, giving an Ignatian retreat for women. I have a passion for the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, so it was both a privilege and a delight to lead sixty-two women through a weekend of reflections on this great gift given to us by Ignatius. God’s blessings flowed on all of us.
At one of the Masses, the priest spoke in his homily about Mary. As he told it: Mary is told by an angel that she, a virgin, will give birth by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that her son will be a king. She doesn’t totally understand, but gives her consent. She goes through her very ordinary life wondering what the angel meant. She goes through her pregnancy wondering how and when this son will be king. As he is born in a stable, she wonders how the angel’s prediction of kingship could come to pass. As she raises him, she continues to wonder how this can be. Then he goes off and starts preaching (perhaps with his mother following him), Mary wondering, how and when will my son be king. Finally, she is kneeling at the foot of the cross, still wondering, how will this dying man become king.
There was nothing earthshaking in the priest’s brief retelling of Mary’s life. But, notwithstanding the periodic reminder in the Gospels that Mary “pondered” many things in her heart, I never considered what it must have been like for her to go through her life, wondering over the years what exactly the Gabriel’s message meant. Surely she understood her son was special. But it was powerful to me to realize that as the years went on, she remained in the dark as to the full import of Gabriel’s message and what kind of king her son was meant to be.
The priest suggested in his sermon that it was not until the Resurrection that Mary had a full understanding of the meaning of her son’s life. That is a long time to walk “by faith, and not by sight.”
Mary was already a powerful role model for me. This message makes her even more so.