[Edit again: In response to Heather's inquiry, I'd like to post this link for information on the Immaculate Conception--something often misunderstood by lots of curious souls. I hope this helps! The information is from EWTN, which is a fantastic source for apologetics.]
[Edit: I began writing this on Saturday, and for twelve thousand reasons, I didn't finish it until today--Tuesday, for Pete's sake. Ah well; life happens.]
How often do we balk at obedience? To our parents as children? To our husbands as wives? To our bosses as employees? To our doctors as patients? To our priests as parishioners? To our Lord as His precious children?
Friday was the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It never fails to move my heart to the very edge of....I don't even know what....to hear the Magnificat read as part of the Gospel. A few months ago, the Pickle and My Darling attended a retreat for their fathers and sons group. We Mamas and other siblings were invited to the Mass which ended the retreat, and the priest had chosen this magnificent reading from Luke as the Gospel for that Mass. I was caught completely unawares, and was very thankful to find my ever-present handkerchief in my purse. As the words were read with reverence, my tears began to fall like watershed. The Gospel was the same on Friday.
From the Gospel of Luke, we read:
"When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant of my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.' And Mary Said: 'My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior, for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name. He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation. He has shown the strength of His arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly, He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has come to the help of His servant Israel, for He has remembered His promise of Mercy, the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.'"
See, Mary's obedience was immediate to something that could, in the short term, only cause trouble for her. But because the angel spoke to her the way he did--"Blessed are you, full of grace. The Lord is with you."--she knew that God had favored her. She trusted Him. She knew that He would faithfully provide for her, and so she chose obedience.
And thank God that she did! Mary was conceived without the burden of original sin, but she was entirely human nonetheless. She could have, by her own free will, said, "Gee, if it all works out like you say it will, it looks great in the future...but right now I'd really rather not be bothered with things like accusations of adultery or impropriety on Joseph's behalf. That would really complicate things for me. My life's pretty good. I think I'll pass." But even not knowing the future and how it would all come out--she didn't.
And what did she obtain for her "Yes"?
She was chased from her homeland so she could be counted with her husband's people for a census. It was her third trimester. It wasn't an airplane flight or a long car ride; rather, it was a long, arduous journey on foot, or on the back of a donkey.
She was denied a bed for her labor and the birth of her Son.
She was detoured to another country, hundreds of miles from home, for two long years, because some nasty king wanted to kill her Son. And whether she was aware or not, hundreds of other mothers and fathers suffered the agony of watching their sons be ripped from their homes and their arms to be slaughtered in the streets before their very eyes....a sight which would be Mary's own down the road.
She was the quiet and humble wife of a quiet and humble man, watching her Son grow into a man.
And all along the way, she had her heart pierced by the sorrow of learning what was to come.
Surely we hope for a better outcome for ourselves in our obedience....would any of us give up our reputation? Our home? The comfort of knowing where we would be living or sleeping each night? And in the end, would any of us be able to bear the sight of a child of ours being tortured by brutal men who will only stop at death? How we doubt His provision!
But not Mary. Mary's immediate fiat also allowed her to be the first witness to the joy of His Resurrection!
And her fiat allows us to rest in the knowledge of our salvation. Had she not carried and bore Him, had she not been the first to sacrifice Him by raising Him up to manhood and then watching him go off to teach His words and then fulfill the prophesy of His death and resurrection for our salvation, where would we be?
God has such a plan for each of us. Though we are not called to the same role as Mary, we are always called to obedience. How often do we shun His nudges to our hearts, knowing that saying "Yes" to Him will bring uncomfortable sacrifice or sorrow to our hearts? Can we not stand to suffer even a fraction of His suffering so that we may more fully witness His glory in the end?
He knows what is good for us, and through occasional obedience, we begin to learn also what is good for us. Imagine the joy of full obedience every time it is asked of us. Imagine God's delight if we said "Yes" every time it was asked of us. Knowing that He has put us here with one another in various roles where we are called to obedience (which is, ultimately, obedience to Him), why do we have such a hard time accepting it?
I confess, I had prayed and prayed before we conceived Gabriel. "Please, Lord, just one more child. I promise that I will give that child to you." Now, in my humanness, my thoughts were of vocations--perhaps a priest or a nun, or a Mama or a Daddy--whatever God wanted. I was thinking Hannah. I was hoping for Padre Pio. I certainly wasn't thinking mere days.
When I knew I was miscarrying, I was so sad....but at the same time, I was so greatly comforted by the Magnificat. I knew that my loss was consistent with obedience to God. He had fulfilled my prayer for another baby, and was now asking me to give that baby to Him. I didn't expect it to be so soon, and it certainly didn't make our loss any easier. It still doesn't. But I know that His faithfulness to my obedience is real, and I can't help but wonder if the reward for that obedience was the rather immediate conception of the child He's currently knitting together beneath my heart. But even in the intense sorrow of that moment, how could my spirit not rejoice in God, my Savior--how could I not sing the Magnificat with Mary? If she in what was to come could still proclaim the greatness of the Lord, how could I not also?
The blessings and graces that flow as a consequence of obedience are amazing. I was so blessed, and continue to be so, after losing Gabriel--through occurrences, through things that I hear at Mass, through relationships with other Mamas who have lost babies before birth, and just through the way I can more fully see His hand at work in my life.
Thanks be to God!