I was pondering this song that was made popular again by Jordan Smith during the latest final’s competition of the Voice on NBC. The song is called, “Mary did you know?” In reviewing all of the reasons that people like or dislike this song, I came to a new conclusion. It is not the basis of the theology that troubles me, but rather the idea that somehow knowing would make things easier. It is the idea that once I know something, I will be able to live my life fully in response to that knowledge. Mary could, because she was preserved free from the stain of original sin, but I can’t because I will always have that thing that leads me to struggle with my decision to follow Jesus.
Mary did not need to know what it felt like to carry Jesus in her heart, but it didn’t make her suffer any less when she watched him die for all of us, including her. She did not need to know what it would be like to hear God’s voice and wonder if she should follow it, she just did it. I can hear everyone saying than why did she question the angel who told her, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” (Luke 1:31) She questioned it, because it was not physically possible to conceive a son without being sexually active, and she had not been. The angel gives her the assurance that what is going to happen is from the holy Spirit, and she is to name her son, Jesus. Contrast this to what had just happened a few verses earlier in Luke Gospel account of the conception of John the Baptist. Zechariah had also questioned the angel, but pay close attention to what he asked. Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” (Luke 1:18)
Mary did not need to know it, she was asking for physically how it was possible. She was overshadowed by the holy Spirit and became one with God through this amazing encounter. Unfortunately, Zechariah was struck dumb for his need for knowledge, and it was only because of his concupiscence that he was made to stay quiet while God did his great work of making conception possible in his wife’s womb.
We should not be questioning, “How will we know this?”, unless we are comfortable with the suffering that will accompany our waiting for God to supply the answer. It is not possible to completely get rid of our concupiscence, so the suffering for most of us will be a part of this life. However, if we can be like Mary when we say, “May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38b) We will be given the holy Spirit to lead us on our journey to heaven, and maybe we can save some of the suffering that comes to us when we always need to know.