Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most high will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
I have always been surprised at Mary’s reaction; that is, how Mary never asked the angel Gabriel, “How will this all work out? Will it end happily ever after?” That says a lot about her. Although she was young, Mary knew where to stand at all times: next to the Lord. It didn’t matter one bit how it would all turn out. She knew who she was: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” Mary was neither a pessimist nor an optimist. She was a gymnast. She walked a tightrope between two extremes: pessimism and optimism. She walked along the line of realism. “Okay…this is it. This is the way it will be. God’s will be done!”
My childhood friend and I were always in competition. We competed against each other in everything: sports, grades, girls, awards, craziness, college, careers and money. If I got an A, he would kill himself to get an A+. If I had a girlfriend, he would look for any girl. If I bought a car, he would buy a bigger and more expensive car. Our competitive spirit brought us to point of absurdity. If I got in trouble with my parents, then he would get in trouble with his parents. I remember very well, back in Kindergarten, tearing a new pair of pants during recess. I told my friend to do the same thing so that I could say that I was not the only one. To my surprise, he did it!
Although we were ridiculously competitive, we always remained very good friends. The day I decided to enter the seminary, I invited him to come along. He politely declined. The day I joined the seminary, he got married. After two years of trying to conceive, my friend and his wife realized that they could not have any children of their own. After years of thinking about what to do, they decided to adopt a baby from Columbia. Once they were back in the states, it didn’t take long for them to notice that something was seriously wrong with the child. A doctor gave them the news: the child is autistic.
Of course my friend and his wife were devastated. The first time I saw him (after having adopted), I could tell that he was hurting. He had lost a lot of his hair and a lot of his faith. It is not easy at all to raise an autistic child. But my friend was blessed with a wonderful wife and an amazingly successful career. He told me, “Al, to have an autistic child is like having ten children. Your day, your life, your wife and your money revolve around him. I can’t do it anymore.” I told my friend, “What are you going to do? Are you going to give back the child? Are you going to send him back to Columbia?” He looked at me as if I was an alien. “No way! Never! I could never do that to my son.” He got it. He understood the meaning of life. You see, life may very well be like a roller coaster or like a deck of cards, but who cares what life is like!
Life is a gift, with a string attached to it. Life is mission.
My friend understood perfectly well that he was called by God to care for this child. If he had not answered the call, this child would be dead. Today, he is alive and very well. My friend understood why the Lord had blessed him with a lot of money: to give most of it for his child.
We know Mary did not know how this mystery would end. The Virgin Mary is not God. We also know that Mary didn’t care one bit what the outcome would be. What she really cared about was that she was there for God and that God’s Will be done!
There is a lot to learn from Mary. There is a lot I learned from my friend. What matters most in life is not that we accomplish all that we set out to do. No, what matters most is that the Lord accomplishes all that He sent us out to do.