The Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary – pure, beautiful, sinless, immaculate – is still a human heart. Thus, Mary did not have a full understanding of how God’s plan was to unfold. In today’s Gospel the Holy Family goes to Jerusalem for the Passover, as they have done for many years. It was an annual religious practice, and it had gone without incident ever since they came back from Egypt. This year, however, the twelve-year-old Jesus decides to remain in Jerusalem. Joseph and Mary begin to suspect something is wrong when they cannot find him anywhere in the caravan during the first day’s journey back home. Worry sets in. They return to Jerusalem and on the third day find him – not lost, not in any trouble, but sitting with the teachers in the temple.
Mary’s question to Jesus sounds something like what we would say: “Son, why have you done this to us?” When something in our lives does not go as we planned, we naturally wonder why? Why has God allowed us to pass through this trial, and suffer “with great anxiety”? Unlike Mary, however, we often ask this without making efforts to search for Jesus, and without addressing our question to him when we find him. We place the blame on him as if he is the one at fault, without knowing his answer. Another way we differ from Mary is that we tend not to ponder the events in our heart. We want answers, we want relief; we do not like seeking without immediately finding, or sitting in the uncomfortable position of not understanding. We lack patience and trust in God’s Divine Providence.
This is why today’s feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is so important. It provides us with a day to ponder the ways of her Heart, free from any sin and moved by the Holy Spirit. As a creature, Mary has many limitations. The event in the temple reveals that she did not understand everything about Jesus, nor about God’s plan, nor about the role she would play in it. But every event was an occasion to learn more; every encounter with Jesus gave her greater insight. She took it all in and pondered it all in her heart. She grew in trust day by day.
Mary is our Mother and our Model. We are limited – far more limited than Mary because of our sin condition – yet God continually speaks to us, always revealing to us more of who he is. He does this through the circumstances in our daily lives and through people, through the Scriptures and through the Sacraments, and through prayer. If we respond by pondering all these in our hearts, then Mary will help us grow in trust and love of God. She shows us that moments of anxiety are times for seeking the Lord with more intensity. She teaches us to direct our questions to him, with humility and docility. In the process we grow in fidelity and love for him, knowing that his plan is the best plan for our lives.
In contrast to Mary’s pure and faithful heart, the first reading shows us the sinful, treacherous heart of King Joash. Joash and his followers blatantly reject God’s plan. They do not heed the warnings of any of the prophets who were sent to them. Even the strong warning of the prophet Zechariah is ignored: “Why are you transgressing the LORD’s commands, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have abandoned the LORD, he has abandoned you.” They kill the messenger because they do not like the message. As a result, they suffer the consequences of their own choices: “…because Judah had abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers. So punishment was meted out to Joash.” This shows us what happens when we abandon the Lord: disaster ensues.
Today’s feast provides us with the opportunity to rest in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to be saturated with her great love for God, to grow in her confidence in God’s plan, and to be strengthened to live according to that plan. Her Immaculate Heart is the perfect response of love to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Jesus and Mary are inviting us to participate in their exchange of love.
When God allows me to pass through trials or suffering, do I ever ask him in prayer “why”? Am I open to the Spirit as God continually speaks to me through people, prayer and the Sacraments? Do I ask Mary to teach and help me to ponder all the events in my life in my heart as she did?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 16, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.