Luke 1:26-38, Fourth Sunday of Advent
I’ve been asked to reflect on one of the most beautiful and famous passages in scripture – the Annunciation. Under any circumstances, the angel Gabriel delivered a startling announcement and all the more so since the recipient was a 14-15 year old girl. But it has always been Mary’s response that we focus on, and rightly so. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” – how many of us do not know these words by heart? But allow me to direct you to her first reply which was “How can this be, since I have no husband?” Now we do not have the benefit of hearing her say this, we can only read the words. And so we can assign a whole range of emotions to this initial response. Did she say it with doubt? Incredulity? Suspicion? Fear? I’m sure if the Annunciation happened in this century, the angel Gabriel would have been answered with a “Hello??”
But I’d like to think Mary’s tone would have been one of wonder, an immediate response of faith and trust. Even knowing that what had just been told to her was physically impossible, she trusted that God knew what He was talking about. And since it was God’s plan, all things were possible anyway. She didn’t even need to hear Gabriel’s explanation that followed. God had Mary at “Hail” 🙂
When faced with similarly unexpected, challenging, and unsolicited situations, how many of us can say that we are capable of such a faithful response as Mary’s? I think our response, or at least I know my response, will likely be closer to this poem by Lois Rosenberg:
And the Lord said : Go
And I said : Who, me?
And He said : Yes, you.
And I said : But I’m not ready yet, and there’s company coming, and I can’t leave the kids and you know there’s no one to take my place.
And He said : You’re stalling!
Again, the Lord said : Go
And I said : But I don’t want to.
And He said : I didn’t ask if you wanted to.
And I said : Listen, I’m not that kind of person to get involved in controversy. And besides, my family won’t like it. And what will the neighbors think?
And He said : Baloney!
And yet a third time, the Lord said : Go
And I said : Do I have to?
And He said : Do you love Me?
And I said : Look, I’m scared. People are going to hate me. And cut me up into little pieces and I can’t take it all by myself.
And He said : Where do you think I’ll be?
And the Lord said : Go
And I sighed: Here I am Lord, send me.
Sounds familiar, right? If you think of it, similar request, similar answer but just took a bit longer for us to get. But hopefully in the end, we do “get” it like Mary did, because we eventually realize what Mary knew from the start – that the Lord will not ask of us without lending us His strength, His help, His love, His grace. The grace that is ever present within us, waiting only for us to recognize it, accept it, and yield to it. And in this way, God’s way, truly nothing is impossible.
Carols and Lessons – Alumni Advent Recollection
2 December 2012
Church of the Gesu
*image from the Internet