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Comfort and Joy: Following Mary’s Example


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Editor’s Note: As part of our “Comfort and Joy” Advent/Christmas blog series, Nonprofit Servant Leadership Program Coordinator Mercedes Matthews shares how the example of Mary’s unwavering love and faith leads us closer to Christ.

Upon hearing the theme of comfort and joy, my mind, perhaps like yours, quickly began humming “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Or more accurately, it kept repeating the carol’s most recognizable refrain. And so it was during a quick trip to Google to look up the complete lyrics that my reflection actually began.

In thinking more intentionally about my own experiences with comfort and joy, I was initially drawn toward moments that I’ve already encountered: a friendly embrace, a quiet chapel, a warm sunny day…or a warm cup of tea on a not-so-sunny day. Reflecting on these experiences more deeply, I realized that it isn’t the moments themselves that bring comfort. Rather, it’s that they are opportunities through which I allow myself to be more open to receiving the comfort of Christ and the resulting joy in him.

“His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy”

In a similar way, I’ve come to reflect on Mary as a source of spiritual comfort that also leads to joy in Christ. I find comfort in Mary because of her example of loving God and caring for God incarnate. I turn to Mary for comfort during my own struggles, realizing that she bore the pain of Christ’s humanity like no one else, both in birth and in watching his suffering and death on the cross. I wonder if she, at the cross, did the same thing she may have done at his birth… knelt down and prayed to the Lord. She watched suffering happen and although she couldn’t stop the pain, she was there, present.

“Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy”

As part of Franciscan Mission Service, I am called to engage in a ministry of presence where the focus, although not easy, is simply to accompany others, walk with them on their journeys and invite them to join me on mine. These journeys can be painful. By spiritually walking with Mary like she was physically present to Jesus, perhaps we can find comfort and strength to walk alongside those in whom our Lord also dwells.

As I continue to look to Mary as a guide in ministry of presence, the comfort I find in her provides opportunities to draw nearer to joy in Christ. Just as Mary is like a mirror reflecting all things towards her Son, I pray that my personal realizations of joy can be reflected towards others.

This Advent season, may we seek spiritual comfort in Mary and imitate our mother through prayer to the Lord so as to more fully discover joy in Christ and bring these tidings to those we encounter.

Question for reflection: What have you been struggling with recently? Have you asked for Mary’s intercession to draw you closer to her son? 

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Following roles in parish ministry and as a volunteer coordinator, Mercedes joined FMS in May 2015 as coordinator of the Nonprofit Servant Leadership Program. Originally from Valencia, CA, Mercedes graduated from Saint Mary’s College of California with a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Liberal Arts. Her time at Saint Mary’s fostered a heart for service through involvement in Habitat for Humanity student leadership, alternative-break trips, and immersion trips to Italy and Brazil. After graduation Mercedes completed two terms of service with AmeriCorps, as team leader with the National Civilian Community Corps in Vinton, IA, and as an affordable housing advocate in Honolulu, HI. It is a joy for her to combine her love of volunteering and Catholic faith to support others in answering the call to servant leadership.