Last week, I wrote about John the Baptist and his courage and humility. He had a fearlessness before others, but humility before the Lord. The same quality is seen in Our Lady Mary. Now bear in mind she is a teenager with no formal education. She is already betrothed to marry a man much older than her (girls were engaged by the age of twelve!). And, as we hear in the Gospel for today, Gabriel shows up to invite her to become the Mother of the Christ. What is she to do? If she becomes pregnant before the formal marriage, and Joseph refuses to recognise the child as his (Jewish fathers had to declare at the birth that this was his child), she is in mortal danger. Because the Jewish betrothal is marriage stage 1, she would be considered an adulteress and be stoned to death. Joseph, in Matthew’s Gospel, does not plan to do this but to send her back quietly to her parents. This predicament will mean she has shamed her family and her elder brother or uncle will kill her. This still happens amongst the Arabs of Palestine and no doubt elsewhere. Such knowledge should clear her mind wonderfully, and the answer would be a clear and definite ‘NO’. But she said ‘YES’!
Our Lady, like John, is fearless before the customs and culture of her day. Like John, this comes from a certainty and trust in God’s request and invitation. Gabriel is not a figment of her imagination and the request to be the Mother of the Messiah is not a teenage girl’s fantasy. It is the real thing. She is presented with the awesome responsibility of fulfilling the centuries old expectation of her people – wanting and waiting for the Messiah. On that solid information, she gives her ‘Yes’ to God. For this reason she is sometimes called The Door of Paradise, because she is the one who opens that door by which our Lord enters or world and our lives.
We will never be the biological mother of the Lord, but we need to give the same response for the Lord for him to come into our lives. God bows before the choice and will of a teenage girl. So too with us, we must make a decision and a choice – Yes or No.
Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord,
that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary,
may by his Cross and Passion
be brought to the glory of his resurrection.
Collect for the Feast of the Annunciation