Wednesday, December 9, 2009

There's Just Something About Mary

What to make of Mary? If Roman Catholics seem to overdo the Mary thing, we protestants may be under appreciating her. And Mary is worth appreciating. Check this out from John at "Jesus the Radical Pastor" - Ave, Maria!

Mary was a pregnant teen out of wedlock. Her betrothal to Joseph was not the same as a legitimate marriage. When Mary became pregnant with Jesus and made her pregnancy known to Joseph, he was rightly shocked and wanted to break the betrothal for he was known as “a righteous man.” Mary’s virtue certainly would be questioned and scorned; she and the child would be poor and dependent as beggars. Joseph’s reputation would be defiled, and the son born to Mary would be considered illegitimate (a back-handed insult thrown at Jesus by the Pharisees in John 8:41). Faced with Joseph’s disappointment, with her culture’s insults and rejection, and her son’s future as illegitimate and, therefore, very limited in society, Mary says to Gabriel after his announcements to her, “I am the Lord’s servant…. May it be to be as you have said.” Or, as a teen might say today, “Bring it on!”

Gutsy, obedient, surrendered, undoubtedly anxious, Mary takes her place in the Christmas story. God’s plan meant public disgrace for her and for Joseph. Matthew writes that the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph to encourage Joseph to stay committed to Mary in the face of the societal rejection to come. Joseph meets his own crisis of faith and he, too, surrenders to God’s plan. Yes, a lowly carpenter becomes (step)father to the King of Kings.

Knowing this, I find my heart welling up to shout “Ave, Maria!” You go, girl! And “Ave, Joseph!” You da man! For it is by your tough obedience in the face of your society’s scorn that Jesus (“Yahweh saves!”) was brought into being and raised as an obedient son. I imagine that Jesus often looked lovingly at Mary, thanking the Father for her gritty perseverance in birthing and raising Jesus. I imagine Jesus working next to Joseph and thinking that this man lost his standing in the community in order for me to have a life among my people. “Ave, Jesus!” Hail, Jesus, you come from a very good family.