Theology Teacher at Presentation Academy (Louisville, Kentucky)
Today’s Gospel is a poignant and familiar one to all Christians.
The angel said to Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.”
And then the angel adds: “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end."
I don’t know what you think, but I thought the first phrase was difficult enough, but to add that her baby was to take David’s throne and rule the house of Jacob? That is really scary. How have the leaders of Israel been treated, by the Israelites themselves, and by their enemies? Would any mother wish that for her child? Mary is both afraid and filled with confusion: "How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (NRSV Catholic edition) Mary felt all alone at this point of her life and yet she discovered that she wasn’t.
If you haven’t seen the movie The Nativity filmed in 2006, I recommend you do yourself a favor and watch it. It is the most human and “divine” portrait of Mary as the mother of Jesus. She is genuinely afraid at hearing this message given her. Earlier, she had been disappointed about being betrothed to Joseph, the action that ended her childhood. She was no longer free to play with her friends and enjoy the carefree experiences of children. Now she, without knowing Joseph, was carrying a child no one knew about. She was carrying this message from “God” alone! But she said yes to God and began a journey of listening to God to know how this was to happen—this birth of her child. The film shows how her relationship with God and with Joseph and her parents grew through her willingness to say yes to God. We are all asked to say yes to God.
We’ve had times when we wondered what would happen to us as we continued our lives of saying yes to God. We wondered if we would have the strength and/or the wisdom to respond as God wanted; or perhaps even questioned if we really knew God’s presence in the call. Yet, when we let go of trying to control how we’d live God’s call to us, we no longer lived in the fear and confusion but in the wonder of God’s presence within us and leading us. Let us be like Mary and say yes to God this day and everyday of our lives and see how that yes unfolds into a deeper loving relationship with God and our families and friends.