December 8, 2022
I had often thought that God has a weakness, after all (something unthinkable because in Catholic Catechism and theology we are taught God is almighty, all-perfect). It is this: He cannot and does not force us humans to bend our will to his. He consults first. That is how much he respects our freedom (which prods the question of why some human governments do not behave in the same manner). This is clear in our Gospel’s account of the angel Gabriel’s encounter with Mary. We are told Gabriel was “sent” to the virgin “betrothed” to a man named Joseph”. “Sent” implies God’s action. The angel begins by undoubtedly praising Mary as “full of grace” and being favored with his presence (“the Lord is with you”). This reminds me of how my own father would first praise me to his friends and later tell me to do a house chore or run an errand.
Mary’s “errand” is much more monumental. She is to “conceive and bear a son” who will be “called Son of the Most High” and will be heir to David but whose own “reign shall never end”. It is understandable how she reacts. The honor alone is enormous. But what about the burden of responsibility to be mother of the “Son of the Most High”? That she is “troubled” and finds it hard to understand what the angel is saying is something many humans can relate to. And she honestly expresses her apprehension, even doubt. “How can this be since I am a virgin?” Mary’s honesty contrasts with Eve’s and Adam’s hiding in the garden from God. By choosing to be truthful, she even brings herself closer to God who is truth. She also teaches us that the best prayer is the honest prayer. We ought not to hide from God our real thoughts and hide behind formal tones of prayers said merely by the lips, not by the heart.
When the angel explains that it is really the Holy Spirit’s work and cites her once-barren-but-now-expectant cousin Elizabeth as proof that with “God nothing is impossible”, Mary does not hesitate to change her standpoint and viewpoint. She chooses God’s. She gives up her own plans, whatever they were. She chooses God’s. She takes his will rather than hers. “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it done to me as you said.” Again the contrast with Eve is so hard to ignore. Disobedience through Eve, obedience through Mary. The contrast continues to show in the consequence: “Death through Eve; Life through Mary,” say the Fathers of the Church. St. Irenaeus may have said it best: “Being obedient she (Mary) became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.”
But Mary had one advantage that may have helped her choice for God and his will: She was already saved even during the Annunciation. That is, through her Immaculate Conception.
Recall instances when you thought that God is more interested in you than you in yourself.
Have you come to a realization that somebody God has asked you for an “errand”, for instance, to help those in need or in crisis?