Mary: A Model of Joy in Suffering
Whenever I think of Mary’s joy, I’m instantly reminded of the Joyful Mysteries: the Annunciation, Visitation, Birth of Jesus, Presentation in the Temple and Finding Jesus in the Temple. As I meditated on these events, however, I noticed a pattern: her joyful moments were also surrounded by suffering. This is, perhaps, an overlooked aspect of Mary’s joy, with implications for our lives.
A CLOSER LOOK
At the Annunciation, Mary received the good news that she would be the Mother of the Messiah. But there’s also the fact that she would be the Mother of the Messiah. That’s a lot to accept, to say the least. She had confusion too, since she previously promised to remain a virgin. And she faced the prospect of gossip and humiliation because Joseph had not yet taken her into his home. And yet, this is a Joyful Mystery.
At the Visitation, Mary went to be with Elizabeth and share the joy of each other’s pregnancies. But the journey into the hill country was 81 miles! She would spend three months in someone else’s home and take care of a pregnant woman when she herself was pregnant. And yet, this is a Joyful Mystery.
At the Birth of Jesus, the Savior has come! Angels were announcing, shepherds were praising, magi were searching— the whole thing was wrapped in celestial splendor. But Mary was laboring in a stall for animals. The King wanted to kill Jesus. And yet, this is a Joyful Mystery.
At the Presentation in the Temple, Simeon prophesied that Jesus would be the salvation of all people, a light to the Gentiles and the glory of Israel. But he didn’t stop there. He also said Mary’s son would be a sign that is spoken against, and a sword would pierce her heart. And yet, this is a Joyful Mystery.
Finally, at the Finding of Jesus in the Temple, Mary surely felt great joy at locating her missing son. But wasn’t this also an anxious moment? They searched for three days, working through the traveling party and scouring Jerusalem before they found Him. If you’ve ever lost a child, you know what that’s like! And yet, this is a Joyful Mystery.
HOW CAN THIS BE?
So, what do we make of this, the fact that the Joyful Mysteries are permeated with suffering?
First of all, Mary shows us that not even perfect holiness escapes suffering. Of course, we try to escape it anyway, which is understandable. Suffering is painful—no one is particularly fond of it. Even Mary had big feelings about it. “Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously” (Lk. 2:48).
In the final analysis, it doesn’t make sense for Christians to avoid it at all cost. The path to paradise leads through suffering, through the Cross and Calvary. Since this is the path of Jesus, there can be no other way. Thankfully, God promises to eradicate suffering when He comes again and, in the meantime, to grant us the grace to bring tremendous good out of it. Mary believed this with all her heart. Do you?
A NEW REALITY
This leads to the second reason why Mary, in suffering, is a model of joy. Sources of suffering that require humility, faith or trust are not an obstacle to her—she’s filled with these virtues! Furthermore, her joy remains because it is not dependent on everything going her way. It remains because God is good, He desires her good, and He can bring good out of anything. This God is unchanging, and she trusts Him completely.
Trust in this God and, like Mary, your joy will be complete, even in suffering. This was the immutable reality of Mary’s life, and it is the hope of every Christian.
Nicholas Hardesty is the associate director of Adult Evangelization and RCIA for the Center for the New Evangelization. | [email protected]
This article appeared in the April 2023 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.