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Despite Appearances, She Believed

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By Marc Massery

Last Month, we talked about humility, the third of the Blessed Virgin Mary's Evangelical Virtues. This month, we address Mary's fourth Evangelical Virtue: faith.

After Mary conceived of the Holy Spirit, she went to a town in Judah to help her expectant cousin, Elizabeth. When the Blessed Mother arrived, Elizabeth greeted her by saying, "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Lk 1:45). This is the first mention in the Gospels of the Blessed Virgin Mary's exceptional virtue of faith.

Months earlier, after many years of Elizabeth being barren, her husband, Zachariah, was told by the Lord that his wife would bear a son. But Zachariah doubted. As a result, the Lord chastised him by making him mute until the birth of his son, John. It is within this context that Elizabeth greets her cousin Mary. Though Zachariah had lost faith, if only briefly, Mary never doubted, even when what the Lord promised her seemed impossible. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines faith as "a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed" (150). God revealed that Mary would bear a Son, and she believed.

When the Archangel Gabriel came to the Blessed Mother and told her that she would bear a Son, Mary questioned how it would happen, but she did not doubt that it would happen. She asked, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" The archangel explained, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God" (Lk 1:34-35). Believing what God's messenger told her, Mary responded in faith, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38).

The Catechism says:

The Virgin Mary most perfectly embodies the obedience of faith. ... Throughout her life and until her last ordeal when Jesus her son died on the cross, Mary's faith never wavered. She never ceased to believe in the fulfillment of God's word. And so the Church venerates in Mary the purest realization of faith (148-149).

So even when the Blessed Virgin Mary witnessed her Son dying on the Cross, she remembered the promise the Archangel Gabriel made to her, "He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Lk 1:33). In her unfailing faith, the Blessed Mother believed despite appearances that Christ would conquer death. She may not have always known exactly how, but that's what faith is: trust that God will remain true to His promises, no matter how things may seem.

Next month, we'll reflect on the fifth of the Blessed Virgin Mary's 10 Evangelical Virtues: devotion.

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