Each new year brings with it new hopes and challenges, the promises of new joys and sorrows to come. It is a time for reflection and renewal, of assessing where we’ve been and where we want to go – and purposing anew how we can better glorify God in our lives. As we enter 2023, Monsignor Rossi shares his thoughts on how the Blessed Mother’s attitude of faith can inform our spiritual walk in the New Year.
Since the beginning of the Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary has held a significant place in the life of Christians. Mary is considered by many to be the holiest woman who ever lived. She is often regarded as the “perfect disciple of Christ” the “model of prayer” and the outstanding “model in faith.”
The Second Vatican Council teaches:
“Mary’s faith continues to become the faith of the pilgrim People of God; the faith of individuals and communities, of places and gatherings and of the various groups existing in the Church. It is a faith that is passed on simultaneously through both the mind and the heart. It is gained or regained through prayer. Therefore, the Church in her apostolic work also rightly looks to her who brought forth the Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin, so that through the Church, Christ may be born and increase in the hearts of all the faithful.” (Lumen Gentium, 65)
Mary is the perfect example of what it means to place one’s life in God’s hands and at God’s disposal. She teaches us how to live in total and perfect submission to the will of God. Mary illustrates for us the essence of saying “yes” to God without any strings attached. Mary shows us the way to deepen our relationship with God and to make Jesus present in our world.
Who Mary Was
Quite often, people only view Mary as a beautiful woman depicted in a statue or in a painting or on a holy card. However, Mary’s life was not always that compact, neat, or beautiful. Mary’s life was difficult and challenging and without question, filled with sorrow and pain.
The Blessed Virgin Mary was an entirely human person. Mary was a young woman from Nazareth. She had to do housework. She went to the well for water each day. She probably had to make clothes for Saint Joseph and Jesus, and she walked through the dusty hills of Judea. It appears that at least for a time, Mary also followed Jesus on his missionary journeys, and we know from the Scriptures that she watched her own child being put to death on a cross.
Mary was not much different from any of us. As a matter of fact, Mary is very much like us, and that is why Our Lady is a model that each of us can follow. No matter how difficult life became, Mary always responded in faith. She knew that if she trusted in God and remained faithful to him, God would remain faithful to her.
Keeping Our Eyes Fixed on Jesus
Saint John Paul II visited this National Shrine in 1979 as part of his first Apostolic Visit to the United States, and now gazes upon all who gather in the Great Upper Church from the Trinity Dome. During his 27 years as pope, John Paul II dedicated nearly 90 of his weekly General Audience catechesis to the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At the beginning of the New Year, the Jubilee Year 2000, Pope John Paul II observed, “Mary does not wish to draw attention to herself. She lived on earth with her eyes fixed on Jesus and on the Heavenly Father. Her greatest desire is to lead everyone’s eyes to look in the same direction.”
“The Virgin Mary,” the Holy Father added, “was a model of one who looks in faith and hope, and who prompts us to look with faith and hope to the Savior and encourages the Church to carry out the Father’s will by doing whatever Christ tells us” (Audience Address, January 12, 2000).
These words of the sainted pontiff are appropriate for us as we begin a New Year. Doing God’s will was at the center of Mary’s life, and it should be the driving force of our of our lives as well.