Our spiritual growth depends on more than just prayer and church-going. We need people to help us grow in faith; role models, coaches, supporters that help lift us up and cheer us on as we go forward. The month of May has long been dedicated to the most well-known woman of our faith: the Blessed Virgin Mary. With the start of her month, I was inspired to begin a new series, studying women of the faith from the Bible and the qualities that helped them grow in faith to help build your support team going forward.
We have to start with the woman of the month! The Catholic Church teaches that Mary is only woman who was ever conceived free of Adam and Eve's Original Sin. From birth, she was God's perfect vessel, chosen to bring Jesus into the world. By reading Luke's first chapter teaches us about all of these qualities. More commonly known as the the Annunciation, you can read it here, verses 26 through 38. Reflecting on Luke's words, we can learn about Mary and her relationship with God.
Mary had a true fear of the Lord. She was troubled by the appearance of an angel in her home and bothered by what was told to her. Nonetheless, she listened to what the angel had to say, believing that God had a plan for her. Mary knew that whatever she felt now, God was greater than she could possibly fathom. Fear of the Lord is more than just cowering before God's greatness, it is having confidence in it.
Having a true fear of God is a challenge for the best of us. We are surrounded by two conflicting images: of a loving daddy who forgives everything and of a terrifying, unfathomable being. Either way, fear of God does not fit into either of these categories entirely. God wants a deep, personal relationship with each of us while still asking us to accept and believe in a greatness that we cannot possibly understand. We learn from Mary about how fearing God does not impede our ability to love and be close to God; that fear of the Lord actually strengthens our faith.
Today, read Luke's Gospel linked above and reflect on what you can learn from Mary's gentle abiding faith and fear of the Lord. Would you trust God to lead even when it comes with strange, scary, and seemingly impossible news? Take a moment to intercede through Mary after your reflection, asking her to help you find a fear of the Lord that will bring you closer to her Son, Jesus.
A few weeks ago in confession, I startled my priest into laughter as I listed my sins and then laughingly declared: "And that's really about it! I'm a married, pregnant student who spends more time with her dogs and husband than anyone else. I can't really get into much trouble."
My confessor smiled and asked how I was coping with my upcoming motherhood, and I was honest with him. After patiently listening to my thoughts and fears, he asked if I had a favorite prayer and upon learning that I use a journaling technique most, he suggested I incorporate Psalm 46:10 into my upcoming meditations.
We will all go through periods of severe doubt and anxiety. It is in our human nature to be afraid of and even resentful of changes, even when those changes are for the best. Graduating from high school or college, moving to a new place for a new job, expecting that first child; these all come with great blessings but that doesn't change in our most private moments, we may view these opportunities as intimidating rather than joyful.
It is in these moments that honesty and stillness can bring more peace than anything else. Admitting our failings, whether to a priest, a friend, or partner, not to seek advice but just to admit them allows us to acknowledge the vastness of what we have coming up. Stillness, calming our anxieties and allowing God in can put them to ease in a way no one else can. As our brains rush from A to B, God blankets over it all, providing us with the peace of God's presence. So whatever it is that makes you feel frantic, allow yourself to be still in God's presence. Whether in your car driving home from work, before bed, in Mass, or even in the shower. A few moments of mindful stillness can help put some of the worst fears to rest.
"Be still and know that I am God."