Letting go with Mary

By Br Mark O'Connor FMS, 8 September 2021
'Nuestra Senora de las Sandias 008' by Fr William Hart McNichols. (C) William Hart McNichols


It’s good to remind ourselves that Mary, the first disciple, played such a crucial role in setting Jesus ‘free’.

Our vocation, as Christians, is also to set people free in the way of Mary.

Mary had to constantly ‘ let go’ in her life of faith and surrender to the surprising paths where the Spirit took her.

So do we! For our entire lives are also all about learning to ‘let go’ and allowing the Spirit lead us to ‘places’, where we sometimes would prefer not to go.

As we journey through life, we hopefully learn as Gabriel Daly OSA observes: “that the world is not simply there for our convenience and that, although we are stars in our own drama, we have mere walk-on parts in the dramas of others. We go through the alienating experience of adolescence, the leaving of home, the loss of friends. And so it goes on, with each crisis inflicting lacerations and bruises which combine to make an average life both an exercise in survival and an adventure story.”

If, however, we can’t surrender and ‘let go’ as Gabriel Daly suggests, then the risk is that we become people who try to ‘control’ others. Often we risk ‘suffocating’ those we love, because we think we know what is best for them!

Nothing is more destructive of the Gospel than that! For so many people are alienated in our church and families when the ‘control freak’ part of each of us forgets Pope Francis’s wise advice: “We are called to form consciences not replace them”.

We all know that when we experience possessiveness in any relationship, it is a sign that our ‘needs’ are predominating and not the authentic good of the other.

How different must have been the relationship between Jesus and Mary? As John Haughey SJ points out in his study, The Conspiracy of God, Mary must have played an enormously important role in forming Jesus to become the totally free human person he was.

Luke, the Evangelist, speaks of Mary’s capacity for pondering events and others’ words. She makes room in her heart for the words of others, especially angels who speak of unexpected things. She receives them in their otherness. “Let it be”…

Having made room in her heart and mind for the Other, she accepts that which is incomprehensible to her, and the Word of God becomes incarnate in her womb.

Surely, it was Mary’s freeing non-possessive love that gave Jesus the relational space to grow and be fully present to others in their deep need and suffering? Jesus, as the ‘fruit of the womb’ of Mary, was able to fully love others with such compassion precisely because his human and divine sacred heart was set free by Mary.

No wonder Jesus urged his disciples to ‘love another’. For without such love we can miss the point. This is the mission of the Church—to form people as Mary did Jesus, in a love that liberates the heart rather than imprisons it.

In a certain sense, to follow the example of Mary in ‘letting go’ is to disappear whenever appropriate. In the Christian idiom, disappearance does not mean failure or proof that something must have gone wrong. As the pilgrim People of God journeys through history, disappearance has always been necessary, so that the Spirit may come. It’s not all about us and what we do or think!

With the poet Cecil Day Lewis, reflecting on his relationship with his adolescent son, such a Marial love discovers that “selfhood begins with a walking away, And love is proved in the letting go.”

Mary, pray for us sinners and help us to ‘let go and let God’.

Br Mark O’Connor FMS is the Vicar for Communications in the Diocese of Parramatta.


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