Friday, January 19, 2007

To Mary Through Jesus

Today I had lunch with a couple of guys I knew during college who were involved in some of the other Christian ministries on campus. Naturally, the conversation came around to women and dating. One guy is engaged and the other is in a semi-serious relationship. Then they asked about me, "So are you dating anyone?"

Off the cuff, I immediately replied, "Yeah, her name's Mary."

"Cool." Then I started smilin' because I know he doesn't know what I really mean, so he says, "Are you serious?"

"Yeah, completely serious," still smiling.

"How'd you meet her?" I never thought about how I would answer that question, but my instinctive answer was perfect:

"Through Jesus."

Which got me to thinking... Catholics are known for that cliched term, "To Jesus Through Mary," but my walk with God has been more like, "To Mary Through Jesus."

For one, I was raised in a Christian household and have always been a Christian, so I was already "to Jesus." Mary, however, began to mystify me around the time I was learning to study the Bible during my InterVarsity years. All these great Old Testament men... Abraham, Moses, King David, Jonah... they fought futilely against God's insistent tapping on their shoulder... they ran from Him... and they sinned greviously.

Mary simply submitted. She asked one simple, practical question of Gabriel and submitted. Luke notes that she treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart when the shepherds visited the Nativity scene and after finding Jesus in his Father's house, Luke again mentions she treasured all these things in her heart. Simeon prophesied to her that a sword will pierce your own soul too. And her last recorded words in Scripture, Do whatever he tells you, even in defiance to our Lord's wishes, brought about the first miracle by Jesus and the manifestation of his glory. And then there's that woman clothed with the sun in Revelation 12.

These Scriptures hint at something deeper and more mysterious than a simple mother-son relationship. Nothing within the Protestant traditions seemed to satisfy the deeper mystery behind Mary, but the true joy and love I felt among Catholics and the simple sense of peace and fulfillment I experienced at Mass piqued my curiousity. It took four or five years, but Jesus patiently lead me to His mother through His Word... and she brought me to the foot of the cross, where I've recently found myself transfixed in meditation upon the crucifix and what it means to follow Christ and love God sacrificially.

That's why Archbishop Fulton Sheen's quote above hits home right now. After all, it was while kneeling at the foot of the cross that St. Francis of Assisi heard Jesus' command, "Go, rebuild my Church!"

And so this leads me to tonight and the reason I'm staying up way too late to write this blog post. I don't care if anyone reads it because I primarily need this to create a virtual memorial. Earlier tonight at a Mass celebrated in preparation for this Ignite Your Torch youth conference coming up this summer, and the priest's invited us to consecrate our lives to Mary so that she can place us at the foot of the cross. During the Offertory, I offered myself to Mary. The idea sounds easy, but when you actually try and pray those words you run smack into your own Pride. This is, after all, a complete abandonment. In doing this, I believe that Mary knows better about what will bring me joy that I do. After three tries, I finally made it past the opening, "Mary." And after sealing the deal, I felt at peace, excited, joyful, and scared all at the same time. But all of that is better than being bored with life, refusing to discover the purpose for which God created you.

Not to say that I won't resist God's tapping on my shoulder in the future -- I definitely will, if only because I know God is calling me to the one mission for which He created me. Part of me wants to live pointlessly for a little while, but there's no joy in that. At the risk of presumptuousness, it's very likely that consecrating my will to Mary's means I'm becoming a priest. And like my soon-to-be-married college acquaintance, it's both the scariest and most exciting feeling I've known.