Hopefully, Easter was for each of you a joyful, faith filled celebration! As we continue the Easter Season, let us ponder the mystery of this great feast, asking our gracious God to gift us evermore with deep faith, joy and hope. This year, because Holy Week and Easter were so early in the liturgical year and take precedence over other Feast Days, the celebration of some Feasts was moved to a later date. This is the case for the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord. Normally celebrated on March 25, this year the Church will celebrate the Annunciation on April 8. Sister Karen Kelly, also a Sister of the Congregation de Notre-Dame, has graciously accepted the invitation to share her reflections on the Annunciation with us. Thank you, Karen.
Sister Sheila Sullivan, CND
L’Annunciazione, Beato Angelico (1387-1455)
Firenze – Museo San Marco
The Angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee in Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
The Angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus, He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Then Mary said, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the Angel departed from her.
I am amazed by several of Mary’s reactions in this scripture passage. The first is when Mary is troubled by the angel’s opening greeting. The greeting perplexes her and yet all Gabriel had said at that point is that the Lord was with her. How much more perplexed is she going to be when she hears what God is longing for in her! The author of Luke does not tell us Mary’s full reaction to the rest of the Angel’s message so we can only imagine it.
How often are we so shocked by what could be God speaking in our lives through someone else that we react immediately as Mary did when the Angel first arrived? It is such a normal reaction to think that what we are experiencing could not possibly be God. How could God possibly know me? Why would God seek me out? What would God ever want with me? What could I do to help God; to help bring God more fully into the world, to bring God more fully to others? All these are very human reactions and all speak to the longing in our souls; the longing to be so known and loved by God that God would use me to bring God more fully to the world and in so doing, to bring about a more just, compassionate, caring world. Can we dare to name and own this deep longing? Perhaps what is truly amazing part is that Mary is able to recognize so quickly that the Angel’s words are echoing her longing and that she is able to trust in God’s promise equally as quickly.
That leads us to the second piece of Luke’s passage which amazes me. After one simple question of the angel, Mary says those well-known words, “let it be done to me according to your word.” I would want to know more than just “how can this be?” I would want the how and why and where and when’s of it all. I always do. I am sure my many questions make God smile but they do not necessarily lead to more answers. Mary’s simple question was answered and she asked no more. Maybe she was too speechless to ask more. Maybe she asked more questions but like with me, God only smiled… So often the answers that we seek to our many questions are not what we need to know at the time and most probably, more than we can handle. Instead we are called to trust; to trust God’s call even when it seems totally impossible, following what Mary did, pondering about it, praying about it, seeking support and confirmation in those around us as Mary did as she went off to Elizabeth. Can we live with the questions that are not answered and trust in God’s promise?
Mary’s story, Mary’s journey, does not end there… who would have been able to imagine what would follow Mary’s yes. Saying yes to being a pregnant unwed mother is never simple in any age and this was certainly true in the time that Mary lived, yet she said yes. Many of the challenges in this piece of the journey she would have been able to anticipate from the beginning but what about the birth in a foreign land and having to flee shortly after the baby’s birth. And then the works and actions of her son, Jesus; the people he touched, loved, cured, as well as those he angered. And Mary’s journey continued still, all the way to the foot of the cross. When she said yes years before, could she have possibly imagined where it would lead? Could she have imagined the incredible sorrows she would experience and the even more incredible blessings she would live; the faithfulness of her God through it all? As we look at our own lives, can we see these same things? Can we see how our little yeses to God’s call in our lives have led us and can lead us to things we could never ask for or imagine… if we can somehow just be courageous enough to trust, as Mary did, that we do not make our journey alone? More than two thousand years after Mary’s time, God awaits our ‘yes’ to come more fully into the world. Loving God, give us the courage to trust in your call in our lives and the ability to live our ‘yes’.
Sister Karen Kelly, CND