Mary: Exemplar of Faith

By Dr Debra A Snoddy, 6 June 2022
Magnificat by Br Michael O’Neill McGrath OSFS. Image: Supplied.


Mary’s responsive faith and active faithfulness to the Word exemplify a theology of discipleship. It is the appropriate response to the Word of God, revealed in Jesus. The phrases “responsive faith” and “active faithfulness” are from the work of Yves Congar, one of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council. But what do “responsive faith” and “active faithfulness” mean? The answer to this question is rooted in the Bible.

The Bible is God’s Word, God’s dialogue with humanity. However, the Word must be received and welcomed (2 Cor 9:3), so that, “the Word of God serves to create a relationship: the religious relationship which takes root in us through faith” (Congar).

Our deepest encounter with Mary, happens in the work of the evangelist Luke. In his Gospel, Mary hears and listens to God’s messenger, Gabriel. She responds fully and authentically and is open to participate in the miracle of the Incarnation. At first afraid, she overcomes her fear to respond, “‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word’” (NRSV: Luke 1:38). In the poverty of her position and the humility of her response, she faithfully hands everything she is over to God. By so doing, by saying “yes” to God’s invitation, she becomes the mother of the Christ of God and begins the process of bringing God’s reign to earth.

The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) further demonstrates her ongoing dialogue with God and the scriptures. What she had said to Gabriel at the Annunciation is unfolded in greater detail here. For now, we will focus on only one aspect of this marvellous hymn of praise, Mary as the voice of the anawim, meaning “poor ones”.

In her world, poverty and the oppression of the anawim were the daily lot of the poor in Galilee. The threat of starvation was never far from their door. A Nazarene herself, betrothed to an artisan, but now pregnant before they come to live together, her situation is one of great peril. She would have fully understood this, but instead of hiding away, she voices her confidence in God her Saviour for the things God has done for her, and through her for all humanity.

Her faith in God and the power of God’s Word has transformed her experience of reality. The threats of poverty and oppression have not magically disappeared, but for her they have been transformed. She sings of the confidence she has that her Son will bring about the Kingdom of God, offering hope and redemption to God’s anawim.

It seems then, that the discipleship embodied by Mary asks those of us who follow after her, to do as she did. We must overcome our fears, our hesitations and say yes to God’s invitation to participate in the continuing work to make the reign of God real in our time and place, to help the anawim of our world.

In Luke 2:19 we hear that, “… Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart”. May we too, find room in our hearts to ponder the treasure of our Mother Mary.

Dr Debra A Snoddy is a Lecturer in Biblical Studies at the Catholic Institute of Sydney.

This article was originally published in the 2022 Lent and Easter/Autumn 2022 edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the magazine here.


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