When years ago the youngest son of some dear friends of mine was being prepared for first communion, his mother explained to him that Jesus and Mary were the only two human beings conceived without original sin. That was quite intriguing for the young kid, who sought assurance: “The only two? No one else?” Upon reassurance, he asked: “Then, how come they are not in the Guinness Book of Records?” As Paul writes, “When I was a child, I thought like a child...”. A few months ago I had the joy of blessing that inquisitive kid’s marriage, certainly a far more mature person who no longer thinks as a child.
It is a happy timing that we celebrate Mary during this Advent season of expectation, because her experience was an advent/expectation of God’s manifestation in her life. In the context of her post-annunciation life, the physical expectation of gestation was likely the easiest one, as is usually a mother’s expectation of her first child’s birth. By contrast, the remainder of her life before her Son’s resurrection was often marked by darkness. Luke tells us repeatedly that “Mary did not understand,” yet “she kept these things pondering them in her heart,” waiting for light in a more trying kind of expectation with an attitude of total self-giving.
But self-giving is conditioned by freedom, indeed by a twofold freedom. First a freedom from: freedom from fear and insecurity, trusting that sharing of what we are —more important and demanding than sharing of what we have— will not impoverish us, but rather enrich us and expand the breadth of our hearts. But also a freedom for: a freedom of availability, which is more a result of the former than a goal to be directly pursued. Mary had this twofold freedom that allowed her to give God a blank check: “Let it be done to me according to your word.” It also allowed her to proceed through darkness, pondering and remaining available to God’s ways in her life.
As we honor Mary during this season of expectation anticipating the celebration of our having been redeemed —freed—, it is proper to pray for the gift of keeping that twofold freedom operative in our lives.
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