“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
It is these words of Mary that changed the course of human history forever. With her ‘yes’, she made it possible for God to visit us in the flesh, in the form of Jesus. And it is his arrival into this world that we celebrate on Christmas Day.
Today’s Gospel reading (Luke 1:26-38) is one of my favorite passages during Advent, a season when we prepare our hearts for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ—for the celebration of his birth and at the end of time. In it, the angel Gabriel suddenly appeared before Mary, saying “Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you!” Mary was perplexed at the greeting and wondered what it could mean. Gabriel then told her she had found favor with God, to have no fear, and that she would bear a son named Jesus. She was not yet married to Joseph and asked how it could be that she would bear a child. Then the angel Gabriel told her mysteriously that the Holy Spirit would make it happen. “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
We know that Mary was very young when the angel Gabriel made this startling announcement to her. According to the custom of the day, she would have been around twelve years old. She had her whole life ahead of her, and she was engaged to marry Joseph. Gabriel’s appearance to her was unannounced and unexpected. It was a monumental, sudden change in plans.
How often do we get upset or irritated when our plans are suddenly interrupted? When we have to suddenly shift course and move in a completely different direction? I don’t know about you, but I often struggle with a change in plans—especially if it is a completely different path than what I had in mind. Yet we see in today’s Gospel that God often shows up in the interruptions—sometimes in very unexpected, wonderful ways. Are we ready when He does?
We see in Mary the perfect model of how to go along with God’s plans for us, without any hesitation. Full of grace, Mary was able to fully accept God’s will for her life. Despite her initial misgivings about the news she received from the angel Gabriel, Mary ultimately said ‘yes’, allowing God’s divine plan to take shape within her. Except for marrying Joseph, I do not know the plans Mary had for her life. But I am guessing that giving birth to the Savior of the whole world probably was not on her radar before Gabriel showed up!
We do not know how long Mary considered the angel Gabriel’s news before she gave her ‘yes’ to God’s divine plan. When I read this passage from Luke in the Bible, I like to think that it did not take long for her to give her answer. She set aside whatever plans she may have had for her life and put everything into the hands of God. In fact, Mary’s entire life became a resounding ‘yes’ to God’s plan. For me, she is the model of perfect obedience to God’s will.
Today in the Catholic Church, we are celebrating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through Scripture and with faith, we understand that Mary was conceived without sin. As we make more room for Jesus in our hearts this Advent season, let us look to Mary as the model of perfect obedience to God’s will. In a world of full of interruptions, let us look to Mary for guidance in responding to the sudden appearance of God’s presence in our lives.
Lord, please help me look to Mary as the perfect model of obedience to your will. Help me to respond with ‘yes’ when you show up in the sudden interruptions as a manifestation of your will for me. Help me to do this with grace. Help me to say, “Let it be done to me.”