A Note from Fr. Gary

May 8th, 2024
Dear Companion of St. Anthony,
The month of May for Roman Catholics is a time to highlight the significance of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our lives and in the life of the Church.  In the Holy Scriptures when Jesus heard someone honoring the “woman who bore him”,  He replied (and I paraphrase) blessed rather is the one who listens to the word of God and acts upon it.  This was not Jesus’ discounting or deflecting the blessedness of Mary away from her, but rather his helping us to see her true blessedness, one that is, in fact, possible for all of her fellow disciples.  As part of her conceiving the child Jesus in her womb, she listened to God’s words to her through the angel Gabriel, and acted upon them. She was, she is, blessed indeed.
This word, disciple, might sound odd to us when referring to Mary of Nazareth. However, Jesus himself, seems to highlight this aspect of Mary’s life in the passage referenced above. She was one, the first one, in her experience of the Annunciation, to hear the word of God and to respond to it (or act upon it). Again, I paraphrase her reply, “Here I am, let it be done to me as you say.” 
Of all the blessings that this divine encounter has shown forth in the lives of all believers, there is one that I’d like to highlight here.  Like her ancestors in the faith did, and like her Son Jesus of Nazareth would, Mary’s hearing the word of God, listening to it, and acting upon it communicates something significant: that the One, who made this promise to her, the One who called her to this singularly significant role in salvation history, is trustworthy.
Even though all future implications of her “yes” to God were not possible for her to see; even though she often is shown as “pondering” the mystery of who Jesus was revealing himself to be, “in her heart”, she moved forward even to the foot of the Cross, rooted in the trust that the God who began this good work in her would bring it to fulfillment.
In a short tract that he wrote on Spiritual Direction, the catholic priest, Henri Nouwen referred to spiritual growth as a movement from absurdity to obedience. The root word for absurd is “surdus” or deafness. The root of the word obedience is “to listen”.  I wonder if there would be lessoning of anxiety in all of us, especially that which seems to be plaguing young people today, if we, if they, could have just a small portion of Mary’s confidence in God’s trustworthiness. Perhaps a more generous portion of God’s word in our lives, listened to and acted upon, would be the answer to following the lead of the first disciple -Mary. As we grow to being faithful listeners to God’s word in our lives, may we grow to living as meaningful of a life as she did in our own unique call from her Son.
Friar Gary Johnson, OFM Conv.