At this time of year, images of Mary, the mother of Jesus are everywhere. In art, she is portrayed as a mild young woman accepting the role God has placed on (or inside) her. In our nativity scenes, she is a loving and attentive mother being cared for by her protective husband, Joseph. In theology, she is the center of debate around the issues of virginity. And through art and theology, she has been portrayed as meek, and mild. But this is not the real Mary… the historical Mary.
Below are 3 truths about Mary, the mother of Jesus that we should be teaching our children. She is a strong model of great faith for people of all ages.
1) She was spiritually well educated and learned. We know this because the messiah concept is not surprising to her. She is surprised that she has been chosen to give birth to the savior, but Gabriel does not have to explain the concept to her. Plus, when she visits Elizabeth and sings the Maginifcat, it is composed from phrases from the Old Testament. She had memorized scripture well and she knew her theology.
2) She was brave and strong. She certainly knew the reaction of those around her when they discovered that this unwed girl was with child and yet she said yes anyway. And if you read the Maginificat (Luke 1:46-55), the song she sang, you will see just how bold she is. She speaks out against the oppressive government, against the rich and powerful and predicts an uprising. This took guts and great strength in a time and place where freedom of speech was not welcome. Those who dared to speak out faced possible imprisonment and death. Still, this brave and strong woman spoke out!
3) She was faithful (full-of-faith). It is one thing to have knowledge about scriptures and theology and another thing to live your faith! She risked everything to follow God: her reputation, her life, and even the life of her son. She fully lived her spiritual calling for her entire life. Mary is called as a young woman but that is not the end of her story. She raises Jesus and then becomes one who never leaves his side, even as she stands by the cross. And then, she is gathered on the day of Pentecost (birthday of the Christian church) and her historic home has traditionally been revered as a place where the early church first gathered. She was a leader in the early church until her death.
Mary is so much more than a painting or plastic figure that we bring out once a year. She is so much more than a poor meek and mild young woman. She is a model of the Christian life for all of us. It does a great disservice to portray this strong, articulate, brave woman as simply meek and mild. For we are all (men, boys, women, girls) called to live lives of faith. Mary, when accurately portrayed, reflects for us the best we can be as we answer God’s call.