Perhaps we can better understand this unnamed woman’s outburst if we recall that in Jesus’ time there would have been far fewer opportunities for a woman to distinguish herself from among her peers than there are today. To have given birth to and raised a “successful” son might have given a woman a sense of pride and accomplishment. Her peers, as evidenced in this story, might have admired her and thought her “blessed.”
It is not uncommon for us, too, to want to distinguish ourselves among our peers. For many of us, our accomplishments not only give us pleasure and satisfaction, they also offer a sense that our lives have been meaningful and worthwhile. Our identity is often wrapped up in these achievements. We learn to value ourselves, and others, based on what we have done. We may gain respect in the eyes of others by our academic or professional accomplishments, or by the fact that we have been able to build wealth or raise our social status. Even if we restrain from bragging openly about our accomplishments, we may savor a hidden sense of pride that we have made a mark on the world and distinguished ourselves in the eyes of others.
Since childhood I have loved visiting art museums and I have loved hiking in the woods. Though as an adult I have done both of these activities alone, I find them more rewarding experiences with a friend. In the company of a true friend, a painting or a mountain become whole sentences in God’s language of Love for the universe. And in the midst of that sacred conversation between friend, painting, God, and me, the most mundane observation or the silliest non sequitur, the tiniest spark of an insight or the warmth of living silence all find their place.
On my journey of faith, Mary has become that kind of Friend, and our shared experience of Jesus has become that sacred communion. He invites me into her presence with contagious joy. She points me to him with fresh insight and renewed simplicity. The Holy Spirit awakens interconnections between my life and hers, my life and her Son’s life, my life and the life of every child of God.