With the Annunciation of Mary, the profoundness of Mary is proclaimed within our faith. With the Assumption, it is affirmed. Mary was a woman who was willing to give body and soul for the will of God. She became a missioner for God when her response with her “Yes” to His will. She dedicated her life for God in mission here on earth with Jesus and in bearing him as her son, from conception to his rising. Every day that she lived was a testament to her faith.
From Mary's witness come the questions, "How do we as Catholics witness to our faith on daily basis? Do we commit ourselves body and soul just as Mary did?" By taking responsibility, Mary and Joseph accepted their mission in response to God’s call. We are all called from baptism to be missioners for our faith. We all make up the body of God. However, as said in the reading today from First Corinthians, “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order”, we each have an individual calling for mission in order to make this Holy body move throughout the world and permeate to the margins.
In today’s gospel reading, Elizabeth is to bear John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus. At this time, Elizabeth was considered barren, yet a child leaped within her womb when Mary appeared, a true miracle. A spontaneous call to mission, to which Elizabeth responded with amazement. Elizabeth knew in that moment that she was going to have a child. She did not question the movement within her body, she just knew. She simply responded to Mary, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Elizabeth was grateful for the gift she had been bestowed by God.
While in mission in Brazil, I am constantly thinking of the gifts and opportunities I have been bestowed by God. Sometimes I find it hard to except my gifts. Most times, I am overjoyed with the gifts I have been given and receive each day. For this reason, I look to Mary and Elizabeth for guidance not to resist gifts but to accept them and utilize them while in mission.
One way I am doing this is through the art activities I teach to the children of refugees in a women’s shelter in Sao Paulo. In the past, I often judged my love for creativity as a distraction in my life. I never thought to utilize it to benefit myself or others. Then, on my first visit to Casa de Acolhida, I was asked what activities I could offer for the children. Before I had time to really think of a response, I blurted, “I am creative. I can lead art activities.” I left the Casa that day wondering what I had gotten myself into. How was I going to teach art classes when I could barely speak Portuguese?
This was only a few month ago. Today, I can say that, so far, it has been a humbling experience with all that the children have taught me about the importance of simply being present with them at this transitional moment in their lives. The children are always happy and eager to learn. They have a natural love for creating art that I share. They remind me why I am in mission and that, when I resist my gifts, I am doing more than just a disservice to myself, I am doing a disservice to those whom I neglect to share these gifts.
I suppose, in many ways, by saying, “Yes” Mary realized her decision to assume the presence of Christ within herself affected more than just her, but the millions of people who have been born since then. When she shared the good news with Elizabeth, Mary created a communion of joy between herself and Elizabeth. We have the opportunity to use Mary's example daily by being a witness to God in whatever ways God is calling us.
By sharing Christ with others just as Mary did Elizabeth, there is an opportunity to allow new life to flourish. We never know what goodness may come from the smallest of our actions, whether it be a nod of acknowledgment or a short conversation. “For God, having given her power over his only-begotten and natural Son, also gave her power over his adopted children - not only in what concerns their body - which would be of little account - but also in what concerns their soul.” (Saint Louis Marie de Montfort)
Photo: Entitled "A mother's hand," taken in Cuiabá, the capital city of the state of Mato Grosso in Brazil on May 18, 2013 by Paulisson Miura/Flickr.