Like many Catholic women, my relationship with Mary has had its ups and downs.
Growing up, women are so often told to idolize Mary and emulate her, but how can we when she is so often lorded above all other women? I have adored that the tradition I call home has had a woman near its center, but at the same time, I have really struggled with the emphasis surrounding her perpetual virginity and purity. Mary, on one hand, was a woman just like me trying to navigate the world, but on the other, as the Church emphasizes today, was set apart before she was even born.
In today’s Gospel reading, we encounter her precisely in a moment where the tension is palpable. The moment we see Mary come to understand that God has a particular plan for her life. The angel appears to her with news that troubled her initially. We see that Mary wonders, Mary ponders, Mary questions. She asks the angel how what he is saying can possibly be true. “How can this be?" is also a question I have found myself asking God I as navigate the world as a Catholic woman. It is a question that has found me on many dark nights of the soul, and in moments of confusion at God’s plan or the world around me. It is a question that feels as connected to me as I do to myself, and one I know many of the women in my life have also sat with.
Asking questions when it comes to faith sometimes has the connotation that we do not believe enough or trust enough. I wholeheartedly disagree. Questions prove our desire to dig deeper, to be firmly fleshed in faith. It has taken me a long time to understand that asking questions is not something to be down upon, but rather something that can bring us deeper into a relationship with God and with our faith.
In Mary we find a guide, a companion in our world of faith that does not always make sense or seem to follow a plan. We find a woman who wonders and questions and seeks a deeper answer in order to see a way forward. She models for us what it can look like to be in a situation of great uncertainty, to ponder things and wonder what they mean. It was Mary’s wisdom of herself and her God that allowed her to feel comfortable asking how this was all going to be possible.
We might not always know all the answers or how things will play out. Mary offered her yes and trusted in the response she received. Do we trust in the responses we receive? Do we seek them out?
As I sit and reflect on Advent, this season of preparation and journeying with Mary, as I journey through my own pregnancy, I have a lot of questions about the future and what it all entails not only for me, but for the life inside of me. What centers and grounds me in this season of not only the Church but also my life is Mary. I am always led back to that she was a woman who was not afraid to ask questions.
May we continue to ask, and to trust in the responses that follow.