Pope Francis on Three Attitudes of Mary

Today I will be visiting my brothers in a nearby prison that I visit regularly. They are in a lay Dominican group with many having made profession as lay Dominicans either for a short time or for life. To me, their lives are true witnesses of the power of choosing God and choosing hope in the midst of often trying circumstances. Many also choose poverty, chastity and obedience as active ways to life a life of holiness rather than merely as punishments to be endured. How many of us do the same with the circumstances of our own lives that seem imposed upon us from the outside, i.e., do we take them as opportunities to make further gift of ourselves to the Lord?

Today we will be discussing together excerpts from a book of homilies by Pope Francis (these can be found in a new release, The Church of Mercy). In Pope Francis’s homily of July 24, 2013 at the Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Conception of Aperecida, Francis spoke eloquently of three attitudes of Mary that we can also take on for ourselves. This Advent season, when we often hear the story of the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel delivers his message to Mary, Mary’s attitude toward God can also serve as an inspiration for our own.

Pope Francis says that Mary embodies hopefulness; an openness to God’s surprises; and an attitude of living in joy. Mary is hopeful because she hopes in God and knows that God will never abandon her side. We, too, can hope. Francis’ words remind me that Aquinas said that hope was not a feeling but a virtue that can be cultivated by habit. We can practice being a hopeful people by remembering, by bringing to mind, that God is with us in all that we experience. So while we may not know the outcome of any particular challenge or trial (Mary also did not know exactly what would happen with her life and her Fiat), God will provide.

Mary is open to being surprised by God. Francis says that just as Peter and others who fished at first found their nets empty but then put them down to receive a bounty of fish, we often find God breaks into our lives in surprising, unanticipated ways. We can anticipate the unanticipatable!

Last, Francis reminds us that Mary was a joyful woman. Mary was joyful because she had hope and trust that God was with her , because she was open to God’s surprises, and because she walked in the way of love.

Today on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, we also can reflect on ways in which we can choose to practice hopefulness and to practice being open to God’s surprises, to practice generosity even in the midst of adversity, so that we can also be a people of joy and of love.

Questions for reflection: Where do I see hope in my life and in my family/ communities? Where has God surprised me in the past? Am I open to God’s new, often surprising, gifts now? How can I trust in God’s goodness so that I may love more generously today?