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Ireland, Knock Shrine: Mary in Advent, the Woman Who Said Yes to Faith

Mission in Ministry 2020: “Mary in Advent, the woman who said yes to faith” Knock Shrine

In Advent we are invited through scripture, prayers, meditations and reflection on our mission in ministry, to clear away all that entangles us in our lives. We are called to open our hearts for “love incarnate” to be born again in our missionary lives and in our outreach in active ministry. We are asked to open our lives to fulfil our faith as Mary allowed her faith to be fulfilled by becoming the Mother of God.

Mary in the season of Advent guides us towards Bethlehem the birth place of our salvation. Mary is the woman of the “yes” who contrary to Eve makes the plan of God her own without reservation. Mary is the person who says yes to her faith, yes to God, yes to our salvation, yes to her relationship with God as a manifestation of her living faith. Mission in ministry at Knock Shrine is all about our saying yes to God, yes to the possibility of the word becoming flesh in us, it is yes to focusing action in transforming humanity.

We cannot think of faith at this time of Advent and Christmas without referring to Mary and her faith journey. The story of Mary at the time of Advent is all about Mary’s availability to her faith in God. The Annunciation Luke 1:26-38 is an exegesis of Mary’s expectant faith. It is an example for us of how Mary allows herself to be transformed.  Mary is the ultimate example of the actualisation of our faith because she spiritualises the word of God in a way that makes the impossible become possible. She allows the word to become part of her life, the pregnant word of God becoming flesh within the living person of Mary, the mother of God.

Mary’s faith is relational faith, her faith is raw in the sense it is real in its purity. At the Annunciation story Mary does not seek correct theological or biblical interpretations but rather she holds the experience of the unfolding events of Advent through her raw faith, her expectant faith.

The image of Mary holding her faith invites me in my journey to be open to the possibility of letting God into my daily experiences through my fellow human beings. Many times in our spiritual lives we fall into the pit of illusion by viewing faith as something to be gained or perhaps as something to be improved, or deepened, all at the expense of being something to share with others. Faith is not a gift to be kept but a dynamic way of living to share with others. Advent faith as mission in ministry at Knock Shrine is all about sharing our gifts and the unwrapping of the gifts of each other.

Mary realised this fact about faith as gift and thus in the visitation to Elizabeth Luke 1:39-45, she unwrapped her faith and she reached out to Elizabeth. Mary recognised that faith is a relationship and not something to be attained in isolation or detachment or in some sort of dogma. Faith is the unwrapping of one’s life to share with those around us in a meaningful and connected way.

Mary shows us in the visitation to Elizabeth that it is in sharing her faith in a real physical interaction that she had the possibility of growing in her own faith. It is in giving that we receive as missionaries engaged in mission in ministry at Knock Shrine. The Magnificat in Luke 1:46-56, which traditionally is seen as a song of gratitude, can now be seen in a new light, it can be seen as a song of transforming faith, a manifestation of an inner dialogue that has reached its fulfilment in actualisation; the actualisation of expectant faith as the word becoming flesh in our missionary lives.

Our pastoral ministry at Knock Shrine allows us to say yes to the spiritualisation of the season of Advent and the possibility of the word becoming flesh within our missionary outreach. Our missionary outreach is being available and accessible to those who are seeking spiritual renewal and the word being born within their lives especially through the sacrament of reconciliation.

Transforming faith enables us to realise that mission in ministry at Knock demands that our faith be actualised through sharing in the wounds of those seeking healing. Saying yes to faith like Mary demands that we physically travel with the damaged, the wounded, and the broken as missionaries. Saying yes to faith like Mary means being situated in the lives of those seeking healing and new beginnings. Reality in mission in ministry at Knock Shrine replaces the shadows of aspirational utterances.

Mary saw her pregnancy as a gift from God and we know that a true gift is inspired rather than occasioned. Mary’s faith was a gift in the sense that it was and is inspirational rather than occasioned. This means that Mary’s faith experience was built on relationship, a relationship that was inspired by faith and yet transformed by that same faith, it was actualised faith made present in her pregnancy of possibilities, the impossible becoming possible, the word made flesh.

Our mission in ministry here at Knock Shrine challenges us as missionaries to live our vocations in an inspiring way rather than just doing a job, it is making ourselves available to the impossible becoming possible in our yes to our faith like Mary.

We know that Mary’s faith journey was not an easy one; she pondered and treasured things in her heart. She invites us to journey with her in Advent to ponder the treasures of our faith relationships that lie hidden, the treasures of making the impossible possible in our own faith lives as missionaries in ministry.

Mary invites us to ponder the treasures of our faith that are waiting to be discovered and to be explored in our own missionary spiritualties and in our relationships. Mary is inviting us to enter the world of faith in soul searching of self. Our “soul” spells out “Seeking Our Unborn Life”, that is, we need to reach the depths of our soul to discover our real faith as Mary did in her acceptance of becoming the mother of God. We need as missionaries to give birth to our faith in the searching of our souls. We aspire to allow missionary faith to be born, and the word made flesh among us and in our mission in ministry.

Mary in allowing herself to become pregnant indicated that she possessed the gift of being able to give up control as she understood that she was not in control. Mary let God in; she let go and let God. She invites us to possess the same gift during Advent to realise that we are not in control, that we let God in, that we let go and let God in our faith. Mary invites us to realise that we do nothing by ourselves, it is God working in us that enables us be mission.

There was a holy man who invited a group of scholars to his home and he asked them this question, “Where is the dwelling of God?” The question surprised the guests and they laughed at him and said: “What a thing to ask. Is not the whole world full of his glory”? The old man answered his own question by saying, “God dwells wherever man lets him in”.

Mary has given us an example to follow; she let God into her life, she said yes, and became his dwelling place on earth. People who come to Knock Shrine, the Marian shrine, seek to explore the possibilities of the ways they can also say yes to God. The pilgrims who come to Knock Shrine see Mary as a gift that is inspired; they seek to develop and transform their faith into a possibility where God dwells and lives and has his being.

Mary spoke very little in the scriptures except to consent to accept the will of God in her life; she uttered her yes to God. Mary always pointed away from herself, her inner faith allowed for outer conversion, her inner dialogue transformed humanity and her inner faith created the possibility of relational faith.

As missionaries in mission at Knock Shrine we are challenged to point away from ourselves towards the possibilities of new beginnings for so many people. We are asked to facilitate pilgrims in experiencing inner conversation through the sacrament of reconciliation and the creation of inner space to accept the word made flesh within the “yes” of their personal advent faith.

We as missionaries in mission at Knock Shrine thank God for the gift of Mary as we are living between the past and the future, the “between times”. Let our hope be to live and not just survive, we are entering our Advent, the beginning of our ability to see, to be able to say yes to God.

Our Lady of Knock help us to say yes to God,  allow us to plumb the depths of our souls, that is, seeking our unborn life which is waiting to give birth to a living faith.

Our Lady of Knock, allow us to be missionaries of living faith, missionaries in mission who are confident and able to say yes to God, missionaries who can become the word made flesh in the ordinariness of our ordinary lives.

Our Christmas wish as missionaries in ministry at Knock Shrine is that we allow all pilgrims feel and experience Christmas as tenderness for the past, courage for the present and hope for the future.

Denis C Hartnett MHM
Mill Hill Missionaries

One Comment

  1. Every blessing on your ministry at Knock Shrine, Ireland.

    Good to read your involvement at the Shrine and the reflections you are sharing.

    Keep well and safe. GS

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