The mother of Jesus surely knew some of the struggles we face.
Friendship is so crucial in helping us feel whole and human and ourselves. When we don’t have at least a couple of people to rely on and support us, life can feel very bleak. There is no easy fix if you are trying to find good friends. The process can take a lot of time, energy, trial and error — and vulnerability. But, I do know of someone who might understand what you’re going through… Mary, the mother of Jesus.
A book called Quiet Places with Mary has helped me think about what Mary might have gone through emotionally in her life, especially with respect to friendship. It may feel strange to reflect on the fact that the mother of God might have struggled with friendships and with being accepted, but it’s not so strange when you think of the extraordinary elements of her life and how many people rejected her son.
There are three struggles we can face when it comes to friendship that Mary probably experienced, too. She can help us.
1Not having any friends close by
Maybe you moved recently. Maybe some friends have drifted away. If you were struggling to find or maintain good friendships before being told to stay inside for weeks or months, you might be feeling very disconnected right now. Usually with nearby friends, you have daily things in common that make it easy to talk and bond. But, if you don’t have anyone near by that you can have a nice chat with or grab some coffee with to decompress, it’s tough.
I think Mary knows this feeling well as she moved unexpectedly to Egypt with Joseph and baby Jesus to escape from Herod’s killing spree. I can imagine it was difficult to make friends in a new place and a different culture. Not only that, she was getting used to taking care of her new baby. She didn’t have her family or a network of friends around to help her, and had to navigate everything that comes with moving.
Mary, you know what it’s like to feel isolated. Please help me to connect with people and feel less alone during this time in my life.
2Feeling like the friends you have don’t really know you
Have you ever been with a group of people you know, and felt lonelier than you do when you’re by yourself? Or maybe a friend you’ve been spending time with makes some comments that help you realize this person doesn’t understand you at all? These moments are painful because we all want to be truly known and understood by people who are close to us.
I think Mary felt this way too, as she led both a very ordinary and extremely extraordinary life. Mary raised the Messiah. What other mom could relate to her experience? Think of all that Mary’s early married life entailed. It was marked by some amount of scandal due to the timing of her pregnancy and while she may have had friends in Nazareth, no one would have been able to understand the scope of her son’s mission, or her role in it. Plus, Mary was a good woman (free from sin!). If people sometimes reject or avoid us because we try to live a moral life, how much more would they have avoided or gossiped about Mary? And after Joseph died, Mary had no one who could fully support her or understand her in the same way, especially while Jesus was off doing his public ministry.
Mary, you know what it’s like to feel misunderstood. Please help me find friends who will get to know me and accept me for who I am.
3Not knowing if your friends will be there for you in difficult times
We want to have people who will help us when we are struggling in life. You may have been disappointed by friends before if you went through something and they weren’t there for you. If that’s the case, Mary shows us how a good friend acts in a friendship — selflessly.
Remember at the Annunciation when Mary finds out that she will be the mother of Jesus? The angel also tells her that her cousin Elizabeth is pregnant. What does Mary do immediately? She travels to visit her cousin and stays to help her until baby John is born. That’s what good friends do.
Mary, you know what it’s like to be a good friend. Please help me love my friends selflessly, and please help me find friends who will love me selflessly, too.
If the greatest saint of all time could have struggled with friendships, we are not alone in this. Mary, pray for us!
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