“Sunny days wouldn’t be so beautiful if we didn’t have cloudy ones,” my mom used to say. And it’s true. When we have to grit our teeth to get through a cold front, we appreciate a warm day all the more.
Something similar can happen in our relationship with Mary. In order to value more deeply her “yes,” it helps to consider her “no.”
Let’s look at 10 of them:
- She said no to every excuse or condition that she might have placed before God’s will. In realizing that she was the one chosen to be the Mother of God, she didn’t demand anything or make any excuses. She simply accepted.
- She said no to vanity. The young women of her time could have dreamed of being the mother of the Messiah. When she was chosen, Mary didn’t lose her bearings or believe herself somehow above everyone else. She recognized herself as the simple servant of the Lord.
- She said no to gossip. She didn’t dash off to tell the world about her mission and her baby. In fact she didn’t even tell Joseph … not even to protect herself.
- She said no to self-centeredness. As Gabriel left, she didn’t settle down to spoil herself and have some rest. On the contrary, when the angel told her about Elizabeth, she got straight to work, thinking about others even in her own state.
- She said no to special privileges. When she heard about the census, she could have asked God for some angelic assistance. And asked him again when they had to flee to Egypt. And again when Jesus was lost in the Temple. But she never expected God to send angels or extraordinary graces to help her.
- She said no to dwelling on the “what ifs.” When she had to give birth in a situation very different than what she and Joseph would have wanted, she didn’t spend her time thinking about what could have been. She adapted to what God permitted and made the best of it.
- She said no to living in a bubble. She could have shut herself off in a little world with Joseph and her divine Son, to relish the delights of living with such company. Instead, from the beginning, she gave her Child to others — to the shepherds, to the Magi, and later on, to the world entire.
- She said no to the temptation to resist God’s plans. Mary revealed to St. Teresa that when Simon told her of the sword that would pierce her heart, she had a vision of the Passion. She saw the cross awaiting Jesus. She could have begun already then to beg God for a change of plans, but instead, she accepted. She accepted God’s plan to such a degree that at Cana, she was the catalyst for the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
- She said no to the rejection she must have felt when presented with us as her children. From the cross, her Son entrusted her to the beloved disciple, and in doing so, He entrusted her to all of us. How difficult it must have been to accept this maternity — to be the mother of all of us whose sins caused the death of her Beloved. But again, she said yes, and not with hesitation or mere resignation. She told Juan Diego that it was an honor to be his mother. What love!
- She said — and says — no to any lapse in loving us and praying for us. Mary didn’t nurse resentment at the disciples who abandoned Jesus on the cross. After the Ascension, she dedicated herself to prayer with and for them. We can imagine how joyfully she must have witnessed them full of the Holy Spirit, going out to preach as her Son had commanded. When she was assumed into heaven, she continued her role as our mother. She is concerned for our needs and our difficulties and spends her eternity praying for us. She lives in the heavenly kingdom, attentive to the earthly one, still and forever the best of mothers.
Let us ask Our Lady to help us to imitate her in these times she said “no” and let us add three “nevers”: Let us resolve never to forget her, never to stop loving her, and never to fail to turn to her in our needs.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided …