Mary, Doubt, Fear, and the Assumption

by gary-foote on August 15, 2011

I hate to admit it, but even at this point in my life and ministry, I still get scared. You would think that after working as a Catholic youth speaker at many a Catholic youth conference and leading Catholic youth retreats all over the country that I would have overcome this by now. It’s a confession that I’m not ashamed of, but it’s still uncomfortable to share. I know that fear is not of God, and I typically ask for the Holy Spirit to remove fear from my life as it first rears its ugly head in the form of doubt. For me, when I recognize fear in my life, I can also see how I’ve taken my eyes of God and His goodness. They work side-by-side. The more I lose my focus on the Lord, the more fearful I become in every area of my life. I forget sometimes all that God has done through the ages. He created. What a cool sentence to write! Usually when someone says, “He created,” it’s followed by something specific. Like, “He created an epic story of love, family values, and time honored truths and called it, “Kung Fu Panda.” But with God, we can just stop with “He created” because He has created everything, including our ability to create. If God can (and does repeatedly) create, then can’t I trust Him to remove whatever fear or doubt I’m struggling with? Well, the answer is YES. I just have to remind myself of the greatness of who God is, what He has done, and what He will do.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As Catholics, we believe that Mary who was conceived without sin, lived without sin by always being obedient to God, was taken body and soul into Heaven without going through the pains of death. God doesn’t just tell us in the Fourth Commandment to “Honor our Father and Mother,” but He shows us first hand in a really amazing way how He does that as the Mother of Jesus Christ is assumed into Heaven. As I was at Mass today, the Gospel reading hit me in a really unique way. I must have heard and read this Gospel passage at least 100 times, but today God blessed me with a different understanding of it.

Mary was visiting her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist. Now Elizabeth’s pregnancy was miraculous in its own way because she was very old when John was conceived. However, it happened the “normal” way. Elizabeth was married and had been for some years. It was a miracle that John was conceived, but Elizabeth didn’t have to explain to anyone the logistics of how it happened. Mary on the other hand was in a different boat. Mary was betrothed to Joseph. They were not married, and yet she was pregnant. Although it wasn’t entirely unheard of for a betrothed couple to be pregnant, Mary knew that Joseph knew he wasn’t the father because she had conceived Jesus virginally. It was rare for a woman of Elizabeth’s age to become pregnant, it was out of place for a betrothed couple to be pregnant, but in all of history, there had never been (and will never be again) a virginal conception. Mary had every right to be concerned, doubtful, and even fearful. There is no official Catholic Church teaching on this, but a thought came to mind as I listened to the story of Mary and Elizabeth being proclaimed into today’s Gospel.

What if Mary for just a few moments was able to let go of all of the details of her pregnancy as she focused on Elizabeth? Then all of sudden Elizabeth reminded her of her pregnancy:

“Blessed are you among women,

and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

And how does this happen to me,

that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,

the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

Blessed are you who believed

that what was spoken to you by the Lord

would be fulfilled.” – Luke 1:42-45

What if doubt started to enter into Mary’s mind about all that had taken place, but instead of allowing that doubt to turn into fear (like I sometimes do), she immediately prayed and reminded herself of who God is based on who He has revealed Himself to be in the Sacred Scriptures (see 1 Samuel 2:2-10). We know from Luke 1:46-55 that the following happened as Elizabeth spoke to Mary:

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

and has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

the promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children forever.”

If only I can follow the Blessed Virgin Mary’s example in a better way, then I too can turn my doubts into trust. Let’s face it: I will never have to deal with the same uncertainty of how I was going to explain being virginally pregnant. I can (and do) encounter many challenges, but none as big as Mary did (don’t forget that she also was at the cross as her son was crucified for our sins). If I can learn from her to immediately call to mind who God has revealed Himself to be, then I too can overcome any obstacle because God is greater than anything I might ever have to face.

As we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, may our beautiful Mother continue to pray for us and lead us to her son as only she can.

God bless you,

Gary Foote

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