Ave Maria Meditations
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zachariah and greeted Elizabeth.
Our Lady puts all she has at God’s disposal. In an instant, all her personal plans – and no doubt she had many – were discarded so that she could do everything God wanted her to. She made no excuses, had no reservations. From the very first moment, Jesus is the one great ideal of her life.
Throughout her life on earth Our Lady showed limitless generosity. Among the few episodes of the Gospel that refer to her, two of them speak directly of her attention to the wants of others. She generously gave of her time to look after her cousin St Elizabeth until the birth of her son, John, and she was solicitous for the well-being of the young couple and their guests at the wedding reception in Cana of Galilee. Such attitudes were second nature to her. Her neighbors in Nazareth would have much to tell us about Mary’s innumerable little services to them in their everyday lives.
The Blessed Virgin never thought of herself, but of others. She did her household chores with the greatest simplicity and happiness while maintaining the deepest interior recollection, for she knew that God was within her. In Elizabeth’s house everything was sanctified by Our Lady and the Child she carried in her womb.
In Mary we confirm the truth that generosity is a virtue of great souls, who know how to find their reward in the act of giving: you received without pay, give without pay. A generous person knows how to be loving and understanding and how to give material help without demanding love, understanding or help in return. He gives and forgets he has given, and in this lies his riches. He has understood that it is better to give than to receive. He realizes that to love is in its essence to give oneself to others. Far from being an instinctive inclination, love is a conscious decision of the will to draw close to other people. To be able to love truly it is important to be detached from everything and, especially, from self, to give gratuitously … This detachment from self is the source of a balanced personality. It is the secret of happiness.
Giving enlarges the heart and makes it youthful, with an ever greater capacity for loving. Selfishness, on the other hand, impoverishes the heart and narrows its horizons. The more we give, the richer we become. Today let us ask the Blessed Virgin to teach us to be generous, first of all with God and then with other people, those we live or work with and those we meet in all the varied circumstances of our lives. She will show us how to give ourselves in the service of our fellow-men in the ordinary course of each day.
Our need, to imitate the Blessed Virgin.
If we feel that in spite of our struggle we are still unable to rid ourselves of selfishness, we will look again at Our Lady with the desire of imitating her in her generosity and to know the joy of giving ourselves to others. We need to have a better understanding of the way generosity enriches and widens the heart, need to be sure that we can attain it. And we must realize that selfishness is like a slow-acting poison that acts insidiously but with deadly effect. Close to Mary, we perceive that God has made us for himself and that each time we give ourselves exclusively to our own plans, concentrating on ourselves and our personal affairs while ignoring him, we die a little more.
Generosity to God must be shown by generosity to our fellow men: as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. A characteristic of generosity is knowing how to forget quickly those little irritations that can crop up in daily life. It is knowing that a smile can make life more agreeable for those around us, even though we may be suffering setbacks; to give others the benefit of the doubt; to do the least pleasant tasks first in our walk of family life; to accept people as they are without attaching too much importance to their defects; to be ready with a pat on the back for a job well done; to give a positive tone to our conversation and, if the occasion arises, to a possible correction that we ought to make; to avoid negative criticism, which is often useless and unfair; to open up wider horizons, both human and supernatural, for our friends. All these betoken generosity of spirit, but above all, if we are to be really generous in loving our neighbor, we must do our best to make it easier for those around us to come closer to Christ; that is the best thing we can do.
Every day we have a treasure to distribute. If we don’t give it, we lose it. If we share it, Our Lord multiplies it. If we are attentive, if we contemplate his life, He will find for us opportunities of serving voluntarily where, perhaps few people would wish to do so. Like Jesus who, at the Last Supper, washed the feet of his disciples, we will not be deterred by the lowliest chores which are often the most necessary and will involve us in the most thankless of tasks. The selfish person who lives far away from God is aware only of his own needs and whims.
Our Lady was not only generous with God in the highest degree, but also with everyone she encountered throughout her life on earth. Of her, too, it can be said that she went about doing good. It ought to be possible to say the same about, each one of us.
The reward for generosity.
God gives a hundredfold for each thing left behind for love of him. Furthermore, whoever follows Jesus in this way is not only enriched a hundredfold in this life, but is also predestined to a reward the munificence of which staggers the imagination. At the end he will hear the voice of Jesus, whom he has served all his life: Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. On hearing these words of welcome into eternity, generosity will have been well recompensed. The faithful servant will enter into everlasting life hand in hand with Jesus and Mary.
Fr. Francis Fernandez (In Coversation with God)