We Catholics have difficulty defending our belief’s about Mary as many of the doctrines surrounding those beliefs cannot be confirmed in the scriptures. I will agree that there is no definitive statement about her being shielded from original sin as she was formed in St. Ann’s womb. However, we can look at many scriptures that perhaps will give us a better understanding of the reasons we honor Mary and perhaps give some insights into why the doctrines were pronounced.
Since our gospel today is from Luke, we do not have to look beyond the infancy narrative to begin to see why we honor Mary. We know there was much about the Angel Gabriel’s greeting that confused Mary and it goes no further than the initial greeting; declaring her full of grace (Lk. 1:28) but this troubled her. Why would the greeting trouble her? Is it possible she did not view herself in the same way we view her? Or could it be the presence of an arch angel was the cause of the trouble she was experiencing?
These are questions without answers, so we will leave those to the theologians to discuss and debate. The significant thing is God found favor with her and was informing her of that fact. There should be no problem from anyone agreeing to that fact since the words are there for anyone to read. This is significant since it is by the grace of God that fills her with the courage to say yes to something she cannot understand. It is that grace of God that is at the heart of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception; God at work preparing a vessel for the conception of his Son.
We know she surrenders her plans for her life to surrender to God’s plan for her life. This is truly faith in action as she forgoes her own plans for herself to fulfill God’s plan for our salvation. This again is the very definition of faith – belief in things unseen and yet believed (Heb.11:1). Our faith must be more than in our heads as a gift we take for granted. Faith demands some active response other than from our intellect. It demands we act on our faith. Mary said yes, believing God would do exactly what he said he would do. She would conceive without knowing man.
Mary believed in something not only unseen but unheard of. How do we know she believed? Because Elizabeth inspired by the Holy Spirit said to Mary “blessed are you who believed what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45). How can anyone argue with faith in action? Was not this the cry of the reformation Faith and Faith alone. Well then Mary should be honored more than any other figure in the scriptures for her faith was necessary for our salvation.
But let us not stop our honoring of Mary with that one prophecy from Elizabeth. We need to look at Mary’s response to Elizabeth. She does not exalt herself, she does not seek any special recognition for her willingness to yield her life to God. No, she deflects the praise and gives all the glory to God. She is honoring God and giving God the glory for all he has done for her and within her. She simply reminds us He who is mighty has done great things and holy is his name.
She is giving us a lesson in humility and a lesson in how we too can surrender our wills to God and allow Christ to come alive within us. Jesus tells us anyone who does the will of his father is mother to him. Well we have a pronouncement from someone above the angels informing us we are blessed, and we are to be filled with grace if only we submit to the will of God. If only we allow the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to give us the courage to live according to his plan.
Mary sacrificed everything and lived in obscurity because of her yes. Jesus was the fruit of her womb and she was the Mother of God. Yet we only get a glimpse of her in the scriptures. Simeon told her a sword would pierce her very soul. It cost her dearly and that is another reason to honor her. Her faith was stronger than Abraham’s for she never wavered and took matters into her own hands as Abraham did.
Mary it seems never evangelized anyone, but she was there among the disciples at Pentecost, she was there on Calvary, she is with us today and her life still magnifies the Lord as ours should magnify the Lord.