Today’s Gospel: Luke 1: 26 – 38
We are so beyond blessed to have Mama Mary’s beautiful example. Can you even begin to imagine the gamut of emotions Mary must have experienced upon hearing the Angel Gabriel’s words that she would conceive and bear the Son of God through the Holy Spirit?
I love her beautiful words of perfect obedience. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” As beautiful as those words are, though, they’re intimidating when I forget the sequence of events during the Annunciation. Mary did not immediately respond to the Angel Gabriel’s announcement by saying that she was God’s handmaid. Instead, the Annunciation looked like this:
- Angel Gabriel goes to Galilee to visit Mary, a “betrothed virgin” (that descriptor would seem redundant until we hear the Angel Gabriel’s news)
- Angel Gabriel tells Mary that she is “full of grace” and that the “Lord is with you”
- Mary is afraid and confused at what that means
- Angel Gabriel tells Mary not to be afraid and that she will conceive and bear the Son of God
- Mary asks Angel Gabriel, “How can this be?” (Mary knows about the birds and the bees, and she’s struggling to understand the words that she’s hearing.)
- Angel Gabriel tells her that the she will conceive through the Holy Spirit (an Immaculate Conception), her barren cousin Elizabeth is pregnant, and that all things are possible with God
- Mary accepts what the Angel Gabriel says, declares herself God’s handmaid, and says that it should be done as the Angel Gabriel said Mary is the ultimate handmaid of the Lord and example of perfect obedience, but her humanity shines through in this passage. She shows us that fear and having difficulties, especially when we’re on the receiving end of big curve balls in our lives, is perfectly normal. What a consolation that Mary’s “yes” wasn’t a knee-jerk response! She had to absorb and process the words before assenting to God’s will in her life.
Isn’t that incredible? Not only did God humble Himself to the extent that He shared in our humanity, but He humbled Himself enough to ask a betrothed virgin to mother His Son, and He waited for her free “yes” to make it happen. That just blows me away. God never, ever, ever treads upon our free will. He wants us to freely choose Him and all that He has in store for us, but we have to want it.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a fantastic section on the Characteristics of Faith. One of the characteristics of faith is that it is certain. What does that mean? 157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.”31 thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”32
I love that! Mary was having some serious difficulty in wrapping her mind around the Angel Gabriel’s words, but she was not doubting that they were true. As a faithful Jewish woman, Mary trusted that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would not lie. She knew that the Angel Gabriel’s words were true because they were coming from God’s messenger. That didn’t mean they were easy to absorb or even palatable! The mother of the Son of God. What?
Mary was free to give her “yes” to God because she was a truly liberated woman. She was so free from sin and had her will so united to God’s that she was willing to shoulder the great privilege and cross of being Jesus’ mother. Imagine that kind of liberation! Imagine hearing God’s plan for your life and accepting it as your path, regardless of whether or not you would have chosen it on your own.
When faced with a curve ball in my life, do I allow myself to stay stuck at, “How can this be?” How can I better follow Mary’s perfect example?
God, thank you for the gift of my mother, Mary. Please help me to always remember that “ten thousand difficulties do not make up a doubt.” Regardless of whatever difficulties I may face, do not allow me to doubt You. Mother Mary, please help me to bridge the gap from, “How can this be?” to, “Let it be done,” in my own life. Amen.
Copyright 2014 Catherine Boucher