For us all, the beauty of this oft-told story of the Annunciation is the forerunner of our anticipated joy that Christ is born of Mary, the Virgin Mother we all love! The picture in our minds affirms the instincts of our hearts that we instantly respond with feelings of gladness and warmth. Yet it also has struck me time and again how abruptly this unique moment that changes our lives comes to an end. Them the angel departed from her.
What did she then do? What was she thinking? Was she scared? Afraid? We do not know but it is worth pondering. Recently a woman who writes a column in a national newspaper about the Church asked this same question about the annunciation and the birth of Jesus. She complained that there were no women around Mary. She opined how brutal it must have been that Mary was alone or later that she was surrounded only by men. That got me to thinking about this because I believe this writer completely missed the point Luke wants us, faithful disciples, to realize.
The truth is the great and wondrous mystery that Mary was not alone. She was in deep and loving contact with God! And the more we grasp what that means, the better we can understand how extraordinary she herself is in Godís plan. We also can discover how our love for her can open us up to a deeper and ever more fulfilling relationship with God, with Godís son who is Maryís son, and with one another, like her, men and women of faith, men and women of the Church.
Not alone but alone with God, Mary is the perfect instrument freely and willingly to respond to the invitation Gabriel makes to her. Unlike Zachariah who questioned God, doubted the promise and was rendered mute, Mary listens attentively to the angel and makes a simple, even innocent response, How can this be because I have no relations with a man? Alone with God and so, not alone. Yet away from any natural or human support systems. She has no official position in the Temple; no expert in Torah. Then or today, powerless. She is young, female and poor with neither husband nor child to validate her existence.
But she is totally, heart and soul and mind WITH GOD AND GOD IS WITH HER. And the Angelís task is to elicit a free and loving response from this woman who is unique because she is conceived without sin. And on that response will depend the salvation of the world. FOR SOMETHING NEW AND TOTALLY UNIQUE IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN. THE WORLD IS ABOUT TO BE CHANGED. HUMANITY IS ABOUT TO BE TURNED UPSIDE DOWN. WE ALL WILL BE OFFERED A NEW DESTINY. AND IT ALL DEPENDS ON ONE WOMAN AND HER RESPONSE TO GODíS INVITATION!
St Bernardís beautiful meditation comes to mind. Mary, you have heard that you will conceive a son, not by man but the Holy Spirit! The angel is waiting for your answer. We too are waiting, O LadyÖIf you consent, straight away we will be freed. One word of yours and we will liveÖAnswer, o Virgin, answer the angel speedily; rather through the angel, Answer your Lord. Speak the word and receive the Word; offer what is yours and receive what is of God! Why delay? Why tremble? Open your heart to faith; open your lips to speak. Arise by faith. Run by the devotion of your heart and open yourself to Godís call. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word.
When David wanted to build a Temple worthy of God, he gathered yup all the precious metals and building materials he could amass. Yet Samuel had to tell him that the Kingís efforts were in vain because they were of man, not of God. The true Temple of the Lord is the young woman who said yes. She became the Temple wherein the Son of God lives and her womb became the Tabernacle wherein he dwelt till the day she brought him into the world. The true power of the world is not riches or politics or armies or ideologies. It is faith and the obedience of faith that Mary had when she said yes to God and thus became a model for us and for our faith.
While Mary is unique and did what only she could do, Mary is also for us the way to her Son and the model for us to follow. The salvation of our God has come to us through a woman who was not afraid to be alone so long as she was alone with God. In the obedience of her faith we find in human terms the same obedience Jesus gave to His Father when In the fullness of time he was born of a woman. The one who said to the Father, A body you have fitted for me. Behold I cone to do your will.
And that, my friends, is what we are called today, and again on Christmas day, to do ourselves: imitate Mary and trust in God. Imitate Mary and live according to his call in our lives to be the best of whatever we have been called to be, to say yes to God every day of our lives, to offer to the world the Son of Mary imitating her generosity and her love. And so we become the ones who in our day, our place, our lives can say with Mary: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My Spirit rejoices in God my Savior. The Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name!