Mary’s Real Cost
On this, the last Sunday of Advent, we turn our attention to Mary. Many in the Protestant tradition have paid too little attention to Mary, turned off by excesses of Marian devotion in some Roman Catholic circles. But if we succumb to the temptation to “throw out the baby with the bathwater,” we miss her amazing example.
Mary does not appear to have been anything special. A young virgin girl of an insignificant branch of King David’s line (now some 1,000 years old), she had no special skills or qualifications beyond a distant ancestor. Yet, when the angel came she said, “Yes.” She reminds us that God chooses whom He works through not by qualifications or training, but simply because we are willing.
Mary, of course, had no idea that path the angel’s visit would set her life upon. It must have been terrifying! She is told that she is to conceive a child without marriage or sexual intimacy. She was no obstetrician, but she understood that it doesn’t work like that. Furthermore, she knew that since she was already betrothed to Joseph, she could be stoned to death for turning up pregnant before the marriage.
We tend to see Mary as a great example of submitting to the will of God, and she is. But I think it is more than that. In a really interesting discussion about this passage at a clergy Bible study, we talked about how Mary did not come to her “yes” having counted the cost. She didn’t know what this would mean for her, or even if she would survive the appearance of a “baby bump.”
So, Mary’s “yes” was hardly an informed, considered, thought out “yes.” Really, all she did was acquiesce to God’s promise through the angel. At that point, all she could do was trust the one who made the promise, nothing more. And she had to express that trust even when what she did know was terrifying.
We want to “count the cost,” and there is good Biblical warrant for that. Later in Luke we find Jesus telling his followers that they need to “count the cost” if they want to be a disciple. (See Luke 14:25-33.) However, even in that example, Jesus’ point is that they must give up anything else that would claim loyalty on their lives. And they are to do so not yet knowing what would come.
People ask me how they are to know the will of God for them. There is no simple answer, but I have observed that one thing that often gets in the way is that we hold back on our commitment. We hedge our bets. That makes it a lot tougher to hear God. We must begin having made the commitment to do what He calls us to do, otherwise we’re listening more to ourselves or others than to God.
Are you prepared to say “yes” to God without knowing where He might take you? If not, what are you holding back? Why does that have a grip on you more than the Lord?
Fr. Eric Turner
This column first appeared in the December 24, 2017 issue of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
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