Culture of Life
Walk With Mary to Have a Heart Like Hers
Edward Sri talks about his new Marian book.
BY Joseph Pronechen
Oct. 20-Nov. 2, 2013 Issue | Posted 10/19/13 at 9:47 AM
Edward Sri is a nationally recognized speaker and author who appears regularly on EWTN television.
Sri is also a theology and Scripture professor at the Augustine Institute in Denver, where he also serves as the vice president of mission. His college connections trace back to being a founding leader with Curtis Martin of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (Focus).
In many of his books, Sri explains the biblical roots or key insights from Scripture for subjects like the Mass, the Rosary and theology of the body.
His newest book is Walking With Mary: A Biblical Journey From Nazareth to the Cross (Image Books, 2013). Once a week until December, he will be posting short video reflections on different aspects of the book on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Edward-Sri/191543877686509).
Sri talked with the Register about his latest book following its release in September.
You have written previous books on Marian doctrine and devotion. What prompted you to write this book?
I spent most of my career praying, researching and teaching about the biblical passages relating to Mary. But this book is different.
In recent years, I began to see more and more how the Scriptures can offer insights into Mary’s own personal journey of faith. Many Catholics may know Mary as the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven and Earth, but how many of us know the humanness of Mary?
Mary certainly was endowed with unique graces and privileges, but she was also a person to whom we can all relate. She experienced many joys and blessings in this life, but she also faced moments of trial and suffering, moments of discernment and moments of darkness, when all she could do was to "keep and ponder all these things in her heart." Mary still had to walk by faith and not by sight.
My hope in the book is that people will come to know Mary personally and her interior journey of faith.
How do you relate Mary’s journey to readers’ experiences?
There are many lessons we can learn from Mary’s walk with the Lord. In the Scriptures, we see that, in every phase of her life, the Lord was asking her to take another step of faith, calling her to ever greater levels of trust and surrender.
And at every step, Mary responded perfectly, being the model of faith in the New Testament. So we can learn a lot from her for our own walk with the Lord.
Please give an example of an insight readers can glean.
For one example, at the Annunciation, many of us might think Mary’s first step of faith is exhibited in her Fiat, certainly a climactic moment. But I think, at the very beginning of the Annunciation, we see Mary doing something very important for her relationship with God.
We see, revealed in Scripture, a heart truly open to God’s will when Mary responds to the angel’s initial greeting in Luke 1:28 — "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." The biblical text tells us Mary responds by being greatly troubled.
For many years, I assumed she was greatly troubled at the appearance of the angel. If I were in my kitchen and, suddenly, there was an archangel there, I would be greatly troubled as well.
But the biblical text makes clear in Luke 1:29 that Mary is not greatly troubled at the sight of the angel, but by the saying of the angel. She considered in her mind what kind of greeting this might be.
What did she find that was troubling, and what can readers learn from her response?
One of the troubling lines is: "The Lord is with you." That’s a greeting used all throughout salvation history when God is calling certain people to play a crucial role in his salvation plan, and the future of Israel depends on how they play their part — that’s biblical code for: "You’re being sent on mission; God has something important in store for you."
So when Mary hears those words, she’s probably thinking: "Something big is about to be asked of me." And that is, in part, why she is greatly troubled, I suspect.
But the key spiritual point I take away from this is something Cardinal [Joseph] Ratzinger once explained: The Greek word in Luke 1:29 for "considered" is the word from which we get "dialogue" in English. Mary remains in dialogue with God’s word.
When God asks us to do something difficult, to make a sacrifice, to step out into the unknown, it’s a human response to be greatly troubled.
But Mary does not let herself be enslaved by fear. She rises above her troubled emotions and truly remains in dialogue with God’s word. Like Samuel, she’s open, even though she doesn’t know what God has in store.
Many of us turn away or set up certain fences around God’s will. Mary, however, has a truly open heart, and that’s the fundamental disposition we need to have before the Lord.
What would you say is one explanation or insight you discuss that rarely comes to light?
Maybe the idea of Mary keeping and pondering. People often reflect in a general way about this, but the expression’s depth of meaning is moving to me. The words used in the Old Testament describe someone who wants to understand the deeper meaning of a revelation or mysterious event unfolding before them.
Particularly in the wisdom books of the Old Testament, this kind of expression is used for someone who does not just want to understand the mystery, but wants to conform his life to it and live according to what God has revealed.
We see the expression in the Nativity account. Here, Mary is being uprooted from her home in Nazareth to be counted in the census by the Romans; having to lay her newborn in a manger, a feeding trough for the animals — John Paul II said that Mary was not able to give Baby Jesus the basics of what any mother would want to give her newborn child. She was told at the Annunciation that this was going to be the great Messiah king, yet he is born into the world like this.
How does Mary respond to the poverty, humility and rejection surrounding her son’s birth?
She doesn’t complain. She "keeps and ponders all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:19). That tells us that she desires to understand what God is trying to teach her through these trials.
Mary will come to eventually see what Luke’s Gospel highlights — Jesus is born into this world in humility, poverty and rejection because that foreshadows how he is going to leave this world on Good Friday.
The Nativity anticipates the cross; Christmas prefigures Good Friday.
Very early in Jesus’ life, Mary is getting a taste of the suffering surrounding his mission. That is what she is keeping and pondering in her heart.
How does Mary want us to apply the "keeping and pondering in her heart" to our own lives?
There is a real, personal connection we can make.
When things don’t work out in our lives or we feel we are not treated well or face certain trials, many of us panic or race to fix our problems. But we should imitate Mary, who "keeps and ponders these things in her heart."
We should ask: What is God trying to teach me in this moment?
Maybe it’s greater trust or patience or compassion. But there is always something God is trying to bring into our lives in those difficult moments.
That’s why we should be like Mary and keep those things in our hearts and ponder them in our hearts.
How can readers become better Christians if they read your book?
My hope is that readers of this book will come to know and love Mary more and that they will also learn practical insights from her for their own walks with the Lord. If we walk step by step with Mary from Nazareth to the cross, we will see that God was leading Mary into an ever deeper relationship with him, and her example will inspire us in our own pilgrimage of faith.
Mary is the model disciple in the New Testament, and knowing her will help us in our discipleship with Jesus.
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.
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