Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
A reflection on the word “BLESSED”
“The graces obtained from the sacrament of marriage are vital,” I said firmly to my Catholic acquaintance. “I doubt my marriage would have survived so long without them. And I see many troubled marriages…Catholic friends…not married in the Church. It’s tough.”
A long time passed, perhaps a year. One day, this same acquaintance reminded me of that conversation. “You got me thinking that day,” she said. “I talked to my husband and we’re going to be married in the Church next month.” I had had no idea that her marriage of over a decade had been performed by a JP. Had I known, I might never have said what I did, not wanting to offend her.
I was humbled by her decision to obtain a sacramental marriage on account of my words. It wasn’t my work. It was the Holy Spirit. You never know when He might use you.
I have also been on the receiving end of casual words that haunt me. In fact, when Sarah assigned me my word – blessed – I instantly recalled a brief encounter from more than a year ago. I was having a bad day made worse by the necessity to drive to my husband’s office on a military post some twenty miles away. To get on post, you have to show your ID to a guard at a gate, and most engage in some typical small talk.
The woman on duty asked me, “How are you today?” and I answered, “Fine, thank you,” even though I didn’t really mean it. I asked her, “How are you?” because I am polite, and because I really do care, in a small way, and strive hard to recognize that it is a person and not an automaton with whom I am dealing.
And she answered, “I am blessed. Thank you for asking.”
These are words I have “pondered in my heart” frequently in the last year or more. I could never recognize that woman again, and I doubt that she would remember me. I suspect that here, once again, the Holy Spirit was at work.
Could Elizabeth have known, two millennium ago, the power of her words? “Blessed are you,” she told Mary, “and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” We have Scripture’s confirmation that her words were the work of the Holy Spirit and that Mary dwelt on, if not these particular statements, certainly many other conversations and events surrounding the Incarnation.
I do not know that Elizabeth expected her joyous exclamations to become the foundation of one of the most frequently recited prayers in history. I am confident, however, that Mary knew she was blessed. Unlike me, on that grumpy day a year ago, who was not feeling particularly blessed but who definitely needed a reminder, I think Mary was ever aware of God’s infinite Goodness. And I think it is this awareness that we are all called to emulate.
It is not always easy to feel God’s blessings. Many days, in fact, it is quite a challenge to find anything good in a particular situation. But this is not a trivial glass-half-full change of attitude. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the difficulties that life is handing us; we don’t have to like our circumstances. But Mary’s response to a “crisis pregnancy” and an awkward social situation was not wailing and gnashing of teeth, rather, her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior, as Luke tells us.
This rejoicing in the midst of a difficult situation was a supreme act of humility. Mary could see that God was using her to fulfill His Divine Will, and she was grateful for the honor. None of us are called to such service, yet we each have our own small role in God’s plan. We can choose to be grumpy and ungrateful, or we can humbly accept God’s blessings in whatever form they come.
Michelle Reitemeyer blogs sporadically about her life as a military wife and homeschooling mother at Rosetta Stone. Future adventures will include simultaneously orchestrating an interstate move and giving birth to her seventh child without having a single meltdown.