Allow Mary to show you how to ponder

By Fr. Jack Treloar, SJ | For The Compass | December 26, 2022

In the Gospel according to Luke we find three separate descriptions of Mary’s prayer life. At the Annunciation, when the angel appeared and told her that she will be the mother of the Savior, Luke says that she was greatly troubled by the appearance and then “pondered what sort of greeting this might be” (Lk 1:29). Then, after the shepherds leave while she is in Bethlehem, she “kept all these things in her heart, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2: 19). Finally, she reacted to the words of her son who had stayed behind in the temple when she kept all these things in her heart. (Lk 2:51) What does it mean when Mary “ponders,” “reflects,” or “keeps things in her heart?”

Mary’s experiences of three major events in her life cause her to ponder the announcement that she will be the mother of the savior, the birth of the savior and finding the child in the temple. She certainly realizes that she has become part of events outside of her day-to-day life as a Jewish wife and mother. As a reflective person she searches for the meaning of these events and tries to understand her place in the larger scheme of things. Her reflections come as a result of her prayer and dedication to fulfilling the revelations that have been given to her in each of the three occurrences. These incidents force her to new depths of understanding with respect to her relationship to God and her son.

Mary gives us an example for how we are to proceed when major experiences happen in our own lives. Perhaps there is a new child in the family. There may be times of celebration such as baptisms, birthdays, weddings, or sickness, or death of a loved one. We can take important episodes as something that barely cause a ripple, or we can, like Mary, ponder what important happenings really mean in God’s great plan for all of us.

It is particularly difficult to develop a habit of pondering given our culture. We live at a time when experiences, especially from our computers, are measured in nanoseconds. Such rapidity discourages anything related to pondering. We live on the surface and never stop to wonder at the world around us or at the events of our lives. Surface living not only hinders pondering, but it also actively discourages any attempt to find interior meaning.

Mary’s pondering can become a model for us as we attempt to find meaning in our own lives. First, to ponder genuinely means we have achieved a state of quiet that transcends the noise of our culture and surroundings. Second, we begin to understand the meaning of significant events in our lives. Third, we will inevitably discover that God is present to us even when we did not originally realize it. As we start the new year, let us invite Mary to show us how to ponder.

Fr. Treloar, an assistant director at Jesuit Retreat House in Oshkosh, has served as a professor, lecturer, author and academic administrator.

2 thoughts on “Allow Mary to show you how to ponder

  1. Thank you so much for your wise words. I shall give thought to pondering in my life as Mary did in hers. I really enjoyed your article. I will try to fit pondering times regularly into my life.
    Happy New Year, Fr. Jack!

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