And Mary said, â€śMy soul magnifies the Lord,Â and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,Â for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me,Â and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear himÂ from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,Â as he spoke to our fathers,Â to Abraham and to his offspring forever.â€ť And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.
Spend a few moments listening to each other's thoughts,
responses and reactions
to how the Scripture passage impacts you.
Read the reflection
The Loneliness of Mary
Bev McDonald -with thanks to Sr Mari Aranda sm, adapted for New Zealand by Marian Mothers/Marist Laity
When do you feel lonely? I think it's a condition everyone experiences at times. Our hearts are always longing for the One who can fill us. No one likes feeling lonely and it can evoke emotions of sadness, fear, self-pity, insecurity, depression, isolation, maybe negative thoughts like "Iâ€™m good for nothing", "no one cares about me,â€ť "nobody understands,â€ť "no one wants to be with me.â€ť These thoughts are worth reflecting on because they help us be more aware of our genuine needs, which can then help us build better balance and integrated wholeness into our life. We shouldn't push them away but perhaps turn them into a prayer, asking for growth. They can serve as a wonderful base for authentic encounter with God, who is vitally interested in what is happening in our lives and emotions, rather than hearing sugar-coated acceptable bits of life. When we truly accept ourselves as loved, we can be vulnerable with the one who loves us just as we are.
Radical loving is needed in our world today and those who let Jesus love them, in and through the nitty-gritty of life, are ultimately able to be filled with his overflowing love. That is the real good news we share. Was Mary protected from the nitty-gritty of life? The Gospels reveal deep struggles and we gain much by reflecting on the emotion and real human encounters of all those involved.
For example, Mary lived by faith. She was called to be mother to the Messiah, but the plan was never laid out. The lived experience must have proven very different from her expectations. It got me wondering; did Mary ever feel lonely? She was a woman with free will, hormones, we know she went through difficulties and would have contended with her own emotions as part of her life's journey. I like to remember her visit to Elizabeth, bearing the joy of being a mother but also the loneliness of keeping that secret from everyone who accompanied her on that trip. Then she was with Elizabeth, living in that different place with people who did not know her, managing the first signs of pregnancy that were new and confusing to her. She also had to escape Bethlehem under dreadful circumstances and fled to Egypt as a refugee. Any of that sound familiar?
Those early weeks of pregnancy can produce euphoria and excitement but also "What is happening to me? Why am I so tired? Why does my back ache? How can this baby be ok when I am so sick? I feel so tired! Will I be a good mother? What if the baby has a disease? What if something is wrong? What ifâ€¦? Mary adds, "What will people say when I return to Nazareth? How can I be a mother to this child of God? Who will believe me? What will Joseph think? Who can provide for us? How do I explain what the Angel said? Did I really see the angel or is my mind playing tricks?"
I find it encouraging to recognise that Mary had temptations including the temptation to overly focus on herself. But we know Mary didn't give in to them. Itâ€™s easy to think of Mary's Immaculate Conception as saving her from living real life. But when we look at Jesus, we see a man of passionate emotions and complex inner life. Jesus was fully God and fully human. Mary was, simply, human. The emotional life of our humanity does not get overridden by holiness and the life of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us; rather it gets elevated into a trusting and loving relationship with God. It is good to appreciate that Mary experienced normal life as a woman. She is a model of abandonment to God amidst life's struggles, not magically being lifted out of them.
In Mary's greeting to Elizabeth we discover that she knew deep in her heart she was not alone. She was confident God was with her and her people. That exultant song we call 'Magnificat', (Luke 1: 46-55) shows this young girl who, despite all difficulties, keeps hold of God's hand. She puts all her confidence in Him. Mary recognized her smallness before God's mercy. In her song she embraces the needs of all; she identifies with the poor, the hungry, the needy, those who hope in God's love. Their song is full of hope and joy. The church considers the Magnificat so important to our faith that it is prayed every day in the Divine Office. It's worth praying regularly and memorising either in words or song.
We can ask Mary to pray for us as women on life's journey. She can help us grow in the faith which overcomes the genuine loneliness we feel sometimes, the strength to live in joy and hope and the compassion to be more aware of people in need, sharing our lives with them. It was intimacy with Jesus and the Holy Spirit which gave Mary her gift of living well through her incredibly challenging life. She knows our need as women and mothers.
Let us pray for a deeper relationship with God which will give us the courage to overcome any obsession within ourselves and help us meet others as brothers and sisters in God's family. God calls us to be community in the Church, building His church of mercy through simple daily acts of ordinary faithfulness like Mary, we are called to try to be real family with each other, living ordinary lives in faith and courage.
Like Mary may we hear God say, "Do not be afraid" and remember always that Jesus is called Emmanuel; which means God is with us. God is with us as women, mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, aunties, friends. May our times of loneliness lead us deeper into experiencing the love of God as Mary did.
First published in Marist Youth International. Used with permission.
Starters to help your sharing
When are you most likely to feel lonely? How do you deal with this?
Are there challenges you think you cannot or should not share? How might the experience of Mary offer comfort?
Is loneliness the same as being alone?
Have you experienced the assurance that â€™God is with youâ€™ in difficult times? If not, - what help from God do you need?
Is there anything else that stood out for you from the reflection?
Conclude by Praying for Each Others needs
Then pray this final prayer together.
Jesus, Please comfort us in our moments of loneliness,
remind us of your love with us every day.
Give us the grace to remember that Mary walks with us
as women and mothers in every situation.
Lord, you have promised to never leave us.
Grant us friends like Elizabeth and Mary.
We trust in you and with Mary we want our lives to sing Magnificat. Amen