But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
In this we learn from Mary all that is necessary for holiness: to ponder God’s word in our hearts. But as I was thinking about what it means to ponder, it hit me that we can’t ponder that which we have never encountered. If we don’t encounter Christ’s word, we can’t think about it, learn from it, or conform ourselves to it.
So, it is up to us to seek out these encounters. Luckily, there is no shortage of ways that we can encounter him: the sacraments, daily mass, reading the Bible, reading spiritual works, reading the lives of the saints, listening to podcasts on spirituality, and/or watching tv series or movies on spirituality. In all these ways we set ourselves up for an intimate encounter with Christ – he speaks to us through them.
I’d love to share a story from a few years ago. One that I’ve longed to tell but the timing never felt quite right for sharing. I’m not exactly sure why it feels right at this moment, but I hope it is the right time! By allowing the seeds of faith to regularly be planted, we open so many doors. Our lives become intertwined with heaven and the signs of God’s love for us appear everywhere.
Two years ago, my birthday fell on Good Friday – something that happens fairly frequently. The difference this time is that I felt angry about it. I wanted to celebrate my birthday with my family, to indulge in good food and a few glasses of wine – guilt free! And at the same time, I felt that I had to (and I kind of wanted to) sacrifice my birthday for the sake of Christ. To abandon my celebration to hold dear the mournful occasion of His passion. It was obvious to me what a saint would do – they would gladly give up their birthday for their beloved. It was also obvious that I am no saint. These two desires within me clashed for the entirety of the day, leaving me unsettled and downcast.
Late afternoon I decided to take Cooper and Reagan on a walk. It was a peaceful walk, one where both kids were quiet and content in the stroller. I was happy for the quiet time, but my mind and heart were still agitated. Half way around the neighborhood Cooper asked if he could get out and walk, so I stopped and undid his stroller straps. We walked a bit further before he randomly stopped, turned to look at me, and said “mom, I have a present for you.” He reached into his pocket as I waited patiently for him to pull out a stick or a bug or maybe a dandelion he’d picked up.
But to my great surprise, he pulled out a mysterious purple Rosary bracelet, one I had never seen before. He walked over and handed it to me while wishing me a happy birthday. I asked him where he got it and he simply told me, “from my pocket!” I was filled with peace and joy at the sight of that bracelet, feeling as if Mary herself sent it to me to strengthen and encourage me in the midst of my wrestling.
Now, I still have no idea where it came from. Did he get it from school? From a friend? Had it been in that coat pocket for years? (His coat was a hand-me-down.) I have no idea. And even if there is a logical explanation, it wouldn’t change the fact that it was meant for me at that very moment in time.
I can’t help but think that I would have missed that gift if I hadn’t allowed myself to wrestle with what it means to be a saint. And I would have never been wrestling with what it means to be a saint if I had not encountered the work and lives of the Saints. In the midst of my wrestling and pondering, heaven showed up for me.
I wanted to share this little story with you as a reminder that God’s love for us is real and always at work in our lives.
So, each morning, spend time with God. Listen to his word, soak up stories about the lives of the saints, fill your life with examples of holiness, and watch as your world is expanded by your ever growing eyes of faith. Wrestle with the hard things that fill you with doubt or uncertainty. Ask God why. Receive the sacraments and pray as best you can. In the midst of it, you will find the millions of little ways that He loves YOU. Personally, intimately, and perfectly. Have the courage and will to take those first steps, to open your heart to listen, and your eyes to see.