The virtue for this month at our school is determination. When our religion team came up with this lead off virtue, we wondered if it was too secular. We pondered how determination fits into a religious studies program.
First and foremost, one is not born into Christianity; The Way requires a choice. I had a Jewish friend in High School. She didn’t choose the faith but was born into it. Her choice, however, was to practice and live out that faith, or not. So the virtue of determination was as important to help her live faithfully as it is to my choice to serve God.
Many around the world celebrated St. Mary’s birthday this past Tuesday. Happy Birthday Mary! When I think of displaying the virtue of determination, I think of Mary.
I can think of five marks of determination: sticking with something until it is finished, asking for help, believing what you are doing is important, setting goals, and resisting distractions. Mary listened to what the angel Gabriel said about how God chose her to give birth to the Messiah. She pondered those things and after discerning it said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me, according to your word.”
Imagine what it would be like for her – an unmarried 14 or 15 year old Jewish girl living in occupied Palestine in the first century. It is difficult enough for an unmarried pregnant teenager in our day and time but the difficulties Mary faced were far harsher. Joseph, the man to whom she was engaged, had the option to stone her to death (to save his name from shame) or to break the engagement. An angel spoke to him in a dream and said to stick with Mary.
Mary’s story goes far and beyond the pregnancy and birth. We have a rare opportunity in the Bible to follow a female from her teenage years until she is at least 45. She stuck with what the angel had told her. She was present at Jesus’ trial. She watched him die on the cross and held his dead body in her arms. She participated in placing him in the tomb and then waited from Friday night until Sunday morning to finish the burial proceedings, preempted because of the Sabbath. She witnessed his resurrection and, according to some, saw Jesus ascend into heaven.
She stuck with the plan. She was determined. Mary had a goal, to let it be with her as to God’s plan. She believed in what she was doing. I believe she must have prayed for help. And, she resisted becoming discouraged. They didn’t have social media back in her day, but they certainly had a social gossip system. Everyone knew she was pregnant and not married. Was Mary teased, bullied, and cut off from her friends? I imagine she was. And, let us remember that when Joseph went back to his hometown, there was no room at the inn, which, in my mind says, Joseph’s family didn’t want him to stay with them. Yet, despite all that, Mary was not distracted, she was determined.
Mary is many things to many different people. To me, she is an excellent example of living a faithful life. I venerate Mary, which means I regard her with utmost respect and honor, because of who she is and how she chose to live her life.
May it be with all of us as it was for her.