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Mary's example of humility and service

Matthew Neugebauer

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

small sculpture of God crowning Mary in front of trees and a globe beneath them.
The Coronation of Mary. Marienparke, Heede, Germany. Wikimedia Commons.
“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your Word.” (Luke 1:38)
Mary's fiat is at once an act of humility and an act of courage and agency. She hears God's summons, through the Angel Gabriel, to bear the Saviour of the world. She humbly hears the call to step out into a reality, into a plan that is larger than herself, larger than her parents and relatives, ultimately larger than even her own nation. And yet she courageously offers herself - her being and identity, her destiny, her creativity, and her very DNA - as an essential thread in God's plan to heal and restore the human family.
Mary’s example of humility and courage can speak to the many obstacles that make it difficult for young people to step out and serve their communities and the world. I think the biggest obstacle is a sense that the great challenges of our time, such as war, poverty, housing insecurity, climate change, family breakdown, the marginalization of the elderly, and all the other threats to human dignity are so big that no single person can make an impact.
Within this challenge can be a number of smaller ones. It’s true: those problems are huge, and they’re very real, so it’s understandable that many feel overwhelmed. A lot of folks also lack the family support, material resources, and inspiring examples that can make a deeper commitment to service possible. Many are simply focused on their education, careers, and families, leaving less room in their lives for community engagement. Then I think a lot of people are just tired of living in a society they feel is unsustainable, especially coming out of the pandemic. That sense of unsustainability seems in part due to the rising costs of food and housing, or the way our cities can limit the opportunities to build personal connections and networks for common social action. For these reasons and more, many are asking, "How can I, just one person, possibly make a difference?" or "Why should I care, when the generations that created these problems don't care about us?"
In her fiat, the Virgin of Nazareth shows us the way to building a more peaceful world. She first humbly presents herself: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord." She presents herself as the servant of the Lord, not simply of one community's interest over another's, but the servant of the God of heaven and earth. In serving the Lord, she sees the suffering and hope of all people, and of the whole creation groaning and yearning for wholeness (see Romans 8:19-23). Her Immaculate Heart is prepared to make room to serve the world that God loves, and in this isolating life she finds connection through God’s solidarity with all of his creation.
Then, she recalls that the true power to change the world lies not in her own natural abilities, but in the one who gave her those abilities in the first place: “Let it be with me according to your Word.” The one who gave her a womb, and a whole body, and breath, and life. The Word that spoke all creation into being, the Word that will become flesh and "reconcile all things" in that flesh, she now receives as the meaning and final destiny of her own story. 
In response to her openness, she’s "overshadowed" by the Holy Spirit, the power of the Word of God, who empowers her to serve. In her case, she conceives the Christ Child, God’s own presence with us, by the Holy Spirit. She bears Jesus for the next nine months (there are now just over seven months 'till Christmas!), and raises him until adulthood. She endures her son’s suffering on the Cross, witnesses his resurrection, and is again overshadowed by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Queen of the World is now seated next to her son, praying for the peace and healing of our – and her – human family.
Young people of today, especially those who are discouraged by the great challenges of our time: take Mary's example to heart, and rely on her continual intercession. You too are called to connect with the joys and struggles of your neighbours, the human family, and all of creation. Yes, you are called to contribute to the healing of the wider world. Most of all, you are refreshed and strengthened by the very one who calls you, as you turn to him in prayer and offer yourself to his service. In that service, you will find that God has given you a cherished place in this world that he loves.
How might God be calling you to step out and serve, maybe in your parish or community, in a mission, a social justice or climate justice organization? Can you hear his promise to strengthen, sustain, and guide you, just like he did for Mary?

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