Each year we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the day after we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is this Immaculate Heart of Mary that allowed her to give her “fiat” or her yes to the angel Gabriel. The heart of Mary can even be a kind of Examen for our life of faith. Take time with each of the following questions to give yourself a heart check.
It is only after receiving the Word in her heart that Mary gives to the world a Savior. The spiritual element is primary. Saint Pope John Paul II wrote that much more important than the bodily virginity of Mary, was the virginity of her heart. Only then is this spiritual element able to generate the reality that includes change—with real effects in the world—beginning with Christ.
In fact, it is Mary’s faith that is recognized and praised when she goes in haste to visit Elizabeth. In this way, the birth of Jesus only enhances Mary’s virginity, best understood as her total gift of self to God and the sign of her faith, her obedience, and unconditional fidelity. Mary’s maternity and virginity go hand-in-hand. That is because Mary’s virginity is not only biological but also theological. How primary is the spiritual element in my life on a day-to-day basis?
When we receive the Holy Spirit, with Confirmation, or by way of our own “yeses” throughout our lives, we also become conveyors and purveyors of this most creative force. We also are able to create and generate life in this world, even if not through the actual birth of a child or children. When do I think, feel, and act most creatively? Do I recognize God with me in those very moments?
Mary is our model par excellence of how to allow our hearts to be formed by the Holy Spirit. How open am I to allow my heart to be formed?
With Psalm 51 we pray, “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit in me.” We can be sure that Mary offers us an example of doing just that. When we pray intimately, we can be sure that the holiness of God is contagious and will enter our own lives, if only we dare to be close enough to Jesus. What is one way I can grow closer to Christ during these summer months?
In his book, What Matters Most and Why, Jim Manney highlights that the Hebrew word for compassion is rachamim, or “womb-love,” the way a mother feels for an unborn child in her womb, intimately close as it is possible to be. That is the way God feels about us. Mary’s example is one of radical closeness, but even before that, radical openness. What radical openness might God be inviting me to in my life right now? Who could I be more compassionate towards today?
Our hearts are key, not just on a biological level, but even more importantly, on a theological level. We may know our LDL or HDL levels, but how about our “heart quotient” score or level? How would you, your spouse, your family, or your friends rate your heart quotient? What can you do to live ever more Marian in the coming days and weeks?
May Mary’s reception, acceptance, obedience, and ultimate welcome be our own guides in the spiritual life. For good reason, the longest pass in football is a Hail Mary. There is no greater reception. May we prepare our own hearts after the model of Mary, and be ready to receive, accept, obey, and welcome when the spirit breathes in our own lives.