Mary, full of grace and the model of discipleship, is on display in today’s reading from Luke’s Gospel. In a mystical encounter, the angel Gabriel shared with Mary that she would bear the “Son of the Most High” (Lk 1:32). Mary heard clearly what Gabriel said though she did not fully comprehend. Who could? So Mary asked, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man” (Lk 1:34)?
This is a different question than what Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, asked of Gabriel in a similar situation: “How shall I know” (Lk 1:18)? Zechariah was looking for a sign, he sought proof. Mary, through her faith in God, sought to understand what God required of her, so she combined her faith and her reason. While she pondered, the whole of the cosmos held its breath for her response.
When Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38), a weary world wounded by sin, exhaled with relief, for the long-awaited savior would now come to redeem what had been lost. Mary, in her obedience, undid the Sin of Origin committed by Adam and Eve in their disobedience.
Mary, help us to ponder your yes, your willingness to follow the will of God and to give birth to our savior. Help us to ponder what this reality means to us and our lives. Help us to be disciples like you, resisting a knee jerk reaction of rejecting outright what we do not understand and choose instead to be open to the possibilities available to us that are beyond the realm of our senses and limitations.
May we too, like you, seek understanding instead of demanding proof. Help us to understand that this surrender is not a practice in limiting ourselves to mere superstition but an embracing of the fullness of what it means to be human, so to embrace the reality of our physical as well as our spiritual natures, and allowing ourselves to be expanded by God beyond our finite limitations.
Photo of Mary, side altar at the Mission Dolores Cathedral, San Francisco from my visit there about two years ago.