Today's reading from Luke contains one of the great understatements
of all time - Mary, by most accounts a young woman of 15 or so years of age,
is visited by an angel and, according to the author, is "greatly disturbed."
Well, who wouldn't be?! Place yourself in Mary's position.
You are doing normal chores one spring day when this incredulous announcement
is made to you. Your regular routine of life is shattered, this being,
whose ethereal existence is somehow made known to you, tells you unfathomable
truths. A barren relative will give birth. You will be somehow
impregnated with and give birth to the Son of God. And the messenger
waits, patiently, for some sign of your acceptance.
There are some interesting questions to reflect on from this scene.
Did Mary have a choice? The narrative doesn't seem to imply the angel
presents an option - "you will" "you shall" doesn't seem to leave room
for discussion. How long did Mary have to reflect? The account
seems to flow quickly, but if Mary was caught off-guard, and was greatly
troubled, and this is such a momentous undertaking, it seems that she would
have more than a short period of time to "ponder what sort of greeting this
might be." How free was her choice? This messenger, this angel,
must have carried some clear sign that this was not a delusion or a hallucination.
Can you say no to an angel? What if she had said no? Can you
imagine God postponing the birth of the messiah?
It seems to me that Mary was helped by the angel to realize who God had always
called her to be. God calls each of us to be who we are. Mary
had time to ponder the meaning of the angel's message, to discern who she
was called to be. We have time to ponder God's call to us, to discern
who we are. The presence of the angel gave clear corroboration to Mary
that her calling was true, that it was God's call to her. Most of the
time we don't receive such a clear message, a clear calling. We muddle
about making choices, and hope we are going in the right direction.
Mary accepted her calling by declaring to her messenger that she would do
as God had called her to do. We accept God's call by saying "yes" more
times than "no" when God sends us messengers.
Who are our messengers? Who brings God's call to us? Are angels
flitting about in our lives giving us revelations? Who helps us see
who God calls us to be? I believe that Jesus' message is clear - to
share God's love with the least among us as we would receive God's love ourselves.
So we have messengers because every day of our lives we are called to make
choices about sharing God's love with the child who asks for more attention,
the student who needs help with understanding a difficult concept, the driver
who cuts us off in traffic, the colleague who undercuts our project, the
spouse who is unresponsive when we have had a difficult day at work, the
elected official who votes against our beliefs, the homeless man who smells
of cheap wine yet asks for an alms, the children suffering from AIDS in Africa,
the terrorist who kills himself and a soldier from your hometown, the rapist
who shatters a woman's life, the doctor who performs abortions, the condemned
man on death row. Do we say "yes" more times than "no" as we
think Jesus would respond? Do we accept what God calls us to do as
Mary expressed her acceptance - "Be it done unto me according to your word?"
My prayer today is to respond as Mary did, to accept God's call, to say "yes"
more than "no."