One of the constancies in Holy Scripture is that the vast majority of characters that we hear about have only fleeting appearances and we are told very little about them. Some have names, Zacchaeus for example, and some don’t, the woman at the well. It’s tempting to look on these people as ‘bit players’ in the overall scheme of the Good News because we don’t know anything about their lives. But I actually think we know more about these bit players than we realise, because most of them, in some way or another, are us…you or me; we can replace their names, or lack of them, with our own. If we look at them like this, then all of a sudden, these characters are fleshed out, they have names, hopes and dreams, a past and a future. They are not just insignificant minor players, but they become important, loved, children of God.
We don’t even know much about what we might consider the ‘important’ people, the apostles for example. But what about Mary, our blessed Mother; do we know anything about her? We’re told more about her than most, admittedly, and yet we still don’t know that much about her and especially on the events that ended her earthly life.
How can we discern, then, the qualities that Mary possessed? They say that actions speak louder than words, but in this case the words of Mary point to her actions, they say many things about how Mary lived her life.
Every single word that Mary speaks in her Magnificat points to God. Even when she talks of herself, it is with all praise and glory to God. Her very soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, her spirit exults in God…not exults God, but exults IN God. A subtle play on words, you might think, but no. She exults in the knowledge of God, she’s enthused, excited, her soul is intertwined with the presence of God.
So from this, what can we know of Mary, what can we discern from her words? Well, she is devout; her trust in God is absolute; she has a close personal relationship with God; she understands that God is timeless, creator, merciful, loving; and she knows that he works throughout history in the lives of his people. From this, we can deduce that her greatest grace was humility. We can also say with certainty that our Blessed Mother Mary was a very, very special person, not just as the mother of our Lord, but as a human being…a humble, loving, gentle, beautiful human being.
So could we insert our own name in place of Mary, as we could Zacchaeus for example? Perhaps sometimes. Those who have lost loved ones will know something of the pain that Mary went through; when we are moved to perform acts of humility, perhaps we can join those moments with Mary’s humility; when we receive the consolation of God, we might begin to understand her relationship with him a little better.
But what we can draw in bucketful’s, both as a Church and as individuals, is inspiration. The inspiration to get to know God better, the inspiration to practise our humility, and the inspiration to see God working in the world, the lives of others, and in our own lives. And we can do this by doing what Mary did so beautifully, by letting every single thing we do, or say, point to God.