She pondered these things in her heart
When I was a teenager, I remember a time when I was getting ready for a talent show and was going to perform a piece on the piano by heart. I was afraid that I would draw a blank and forget how to play it. I found an image of Divine Mercy and prayed anxiously that God would help me play without messing up. I was so set on playing perfectly. While I was praying, I realized that there was a chance of messing up and that God might not intervene, and it scared me to realize how much of my life was not in my control. In my teenage mind and heart, I was not ready to surrender to a greater will that might take me beyond my comfort zone.
This incident as a teenager came to mind because last Friday at a socially distanced confession appointment, the priest reminded me that trusting in God does not mean believing that things will go as I want or plan them to go. Trust in God means surrendering the what, the how and the when to God. It means trusting in His way of allowing and doing things in my life. This small modification (surrender to God’s will vs my own) makes a world of difference and has led me to explore what trust in God really means. In doing so, I have found Mary’s example of surrender and the practice of mindfulness very beneficial.
I’ve learned that just as grace builds on nature, trust needs a new wine skin that will facilitate the new wine of trust to exist and develop. I can’t just trust abstractly. In facilitating this new wine skin for hope during the pandemic I have found it helpful to practice mindfulness from a Catholic perspective: the practice of non-judgmental awareness of the present moment (see the Mindful Catholic by Dr. Gregory Botarro). It is awareness of what is going on in my mind, body and surroundings without judging or condemning: it’s about integrating mind and heart in everything I do, acting from a place of being rather than from a place of doing. This practice has allowed me to live in the present moment with more freedom and inner peace. Mindfulness frees me from unnecessary worries and draws me into a greater reality than what my mind on its own might think or reason.
In practicing mindfulness, the example of Mary has been very beneficial. She didn’t ponder things in her head alone, but from the heart. The trust that God asks of me doesn’t start in the head, but in the heart. When I get lost in my fears, as that incidence I shared about preparing for the talent show, I’m usually in my head and disconnected from the heart. When I enter into the place where the heart and mind are one, there God speaks and in His wisdom, He comforts and reassures me. Just like in a human relationship, trust is something we experience in the heart: we feel safe in someone’s presence, we know viscerally that this person is good and wants the best for us. If we let our mind wander apart from the heart, it can take us to dark and dangerous places.
Our Lady had her own journey of trust. In her early years before the annunciation, she had a desire to remain a virgin and consecrate her whole life to God. What surrender it took to say yes to being a wife and mother, a plan very different from what she had in mind. And yet, we see that God fulfills the essence of her desire and plan in an even greater way. As her journey of faith continues, the heavenly Father continues asking more of her, preparing her slowly to let go of the earthly presence of Jesus and open her heart to being mother of all the faithful. There were many unknowns in Mary’s life, but her secret was that she pondered everything in her heart. Even in moments of anxiety such as when she lost the Christ Child, or in moments of intense pain, when her Son was being crucified, she was firm in faith, grounded in the surrender of the heart.
The good news is that Our Lady wants to help each one of us, her dear children, to surrender and trust like she did. She is not just the mother of the Church in general. She is personally the mother of each one of us and desires a personal relationship with us. During the rest of this month of May, let us pray the rosary and especially the joyful mysteries, being mindful of how Our Lady pondered everything in her heart, saying yes to God’s will every step of the way.