COLBERT: Mary, Bold and Courageous

May 11, 2021

As we celebrate and honor the Blessed Mother in the month of May, I would like to propose a bit of a different image of Mary. Perhaps Mother Mary, rather than being the passive, meek and mild woman she is often portrayed as, was, in fact, a radically bold and courageous woman who challenged the status quo much like her Son.

Picture this: A short, young, Jewish, dark-haired, olive-skinned, unwed, pregnant teen ostracized in her small village, arrives at her older cousin’s home and declares “My soul magnifies the Lord And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid; For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” We typically understand the Magnificat as a passive and prayerful moment.

Consider an alternative interpretation-one in which this is not a passive expression but rather an amazingly bold and courageous statement. What if what Mary does here is to call out all the naysayers of her village? She stands proud. She challenges those who saw her as defiled and unworthy by declaring henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. She then proceeds to display a sharp intellect as she references God’s promises that are found in the Torah.

Particularly important in the context of that period in history where women generally did not read. Notice, too, that ultimately it is her Son who pays the ultimate price for proclaiming these very truths. Of course, the story doesn’t end there. We are an Easter people.

I could go on about the amazing radical woman we know as Mary, the Mother of God. However, let’s take a moment to explore the practical implications of seeing Mary through this lens in the short excerpt of the Magnificat.

Mary calls us to be bold. Mary stood her ground as an unwed mother because she knew the truth. She knew that God had called her to this unique experience of motherhood. We, too, are called to stand for the truth. To boldly, but with care and compassion, proclaim the wisdom passed on to us through the life of Jesus, through the sacred Scriptures and through the magisterium.

Mary shows us the importance of knowing the Scriptures. Develop the habit of daily reading and meditating on sacred Scripture. It doesn’t need to be much, perhaps just a chapter each day. If you have a family at home, consider a family reflection time. Maybe over dinner, taking some time to share reflections on the Sunday Gospel.

No one was closer to Jesus than Mary, who bore Him in her womb. Mary challenges us to stay close to Jesus.

I am reminded of a piece of wisdom from my mother. She would sometimes tell me, “I may not always like you, but I will always love you.” I think this likely resonates with anyone who is a parent. I would venture to guess that this was true for Mary and Jesus as well. So stay close to Jesus. Stay close through joy and suffering. Stay close even when you don’t like the challenge He places before you. We may not always like what Jesus calls us to, but we love Him anyway.

I pray that all of us will grow deeper in our understanding of Mary, our mother. Mary, the bearer of the Christ child. Mary, the radically bold and courageous first disciple. †

Timothy E. Colbert is the director of the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.