“Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). I think there are times in our lives when the world comes at us relentlessly. There is a part of us that wants to understand the situations, dissect them, get to the core of it, so that we can be in control. In St. Luke’s telling of the coming of the Christ child, the events unfold at what may have been a frightening pace for Mary who was likely just a teenager. Once Mary gave her consent to God’s plan, the waves and tidal forces of salvation history swept her along at what must have been a dizzying pace. The events of the Annunciation and Visitation – had something similar happened in my life, I don’t think I would have treasured all these things and pondered them in my heart. But she did.
In the midst of these torrents, Mary protected and guarded in her heart, the passage of God from eternity into the life of his people. Just as the child Jesus in her womb was accompanied by Mary’s heartbeat, so too, deep within, she learned to listen to the heartbeat of her Son, and that in turn taught her, throughout her life, to discover God’s heartbeat in history. “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
Consider the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary – the mysteries of Jesus’ earliest days: Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, the Presentation, and finding Jesus in the Temple. This list doesn’t include the prophecies of Simeon and Anna, Herod’s attempt to murder her son, becoming refugees, and the exile in Egypt. It’s all a lot to process, a lot to ponder. Think of the events remembered in the Luminous Mysteries of Jesus’ public ministry time. The Sorrowful Mysteries of Holy Week – then add to it the Glorious Mysteries. The rosary is the story of Jesus seen through the eyes of his mother. Not simply the eyes of a witness, but through the most intimate of eyes, his mom.
And then her son is gone. Gone in the most earth shattering, life changing way. She is left with memories to treasure and to ponder in her heart. A heart which knows the heartbeat of her Son and Savior.
The most recent Heisman Trophy winner, Caleb Williams of USC, is a graduate of Gonzaga High School. In accepting the award he gave testimony for what his Jesuit education meant to him. He said that it taught him to be a man for others – a theme every young man at a Jesuit high school learns.
It strikes me that were we to ponder the life of Christ through the eyes of Mary, we’d see the living embodiment of a woman for others. A woman for others even as the tidal wave of salvation history swept through her life. We know very little about the home life of Jesus. We can only speculate what Jesus learned by Mary’s maternal example. But can speculate through our own experience of the good and faithful women who raised us in the faith. We can speculate through the experience we garner along the way.
In my time I have encountered women at home, at work, in neonatal intensive care, in the Confessional, in prison, on the sidewalk in front of church, in quiet conversations, in refugee camps, at moments of life, moments of death, and in the between moments casual and intense. I have experienced the maternal love, tenderness, unconditional self-sacrifice, and hope from moms with children in ICU, prison, bondage to drugs, or tapped in homelessness. In the cold winter of Ukraine, in the midst of war, mothers unfailingly embrace and support their children’s sufferings. Mothers willing to give their lives so that none of their children will perish. Where there is a mother there is the antidote to indifference. There is the unifying embrace of love. They know the heartbeat of their children.
Mary was a mom, the Mother of God. A mom who knew the heartbeat of her child.
Even though I will never be a mom or experience the miracle of carrying life so intimately, nonetheless I am called to discover, know, and listen to the heartbeat of God in my life. It is the same charge given to us all.
Perhaps it is no coincidence we celebrate Mary, Mother of God, on the cusp of the New Year. The church bids us to enter the new year with Mary’s example: We are called to listen for the heartbeat of God calling us into life. We are called to examine our blessings, graces, sins, and recommit ourselves to living as men and women for others.
“Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
May the Lord give you a Spirit of Wisdom, knowledge and Insight that you might know the heartbeat of God in this coming year.
Image credit: ” Madonna of the Streets” painting, Roberto Ferruzzi, first introduced it at the Venice Biennale art exhibit in 1897, Public Domain