Reflection for Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent — The Annunciation of the Lord
When my brother and his wife found out they were expecting their first child, they wanted to find a creative way to share the news with my parents. They had a picture of my sister-in-law’s ultrasound and put it in a frame and wrapped it up as a gift. My mother opened the picture frame and started screaming with surprise and out of pure joy and excitement.
The angel Gabriel comes to Mary with an announcement, a joyful one, but certainly one that she did not expect to hear. What is announced to Mary is the revelation of what the prophets had spoken. Mary is the virgin prophesied to bear a son of the house of David. Mary will conceive and bear a son through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus will fulfill the covenant God makes with His chosen one, David.
The events were rightfully troubling and confusing to Mary. Still, during the dialogue with the angel, Mary communicates one powerful message from which all of us must learn: openness to God. Mary is willing to do what God asks of her and play a most significant role in salvation history. Mary’s “yes” to God is a moment of great rejoicing for all of heaven and earth.
It is embarrassing to consider how starkly Mary’s “yes” is contrasted with our response to God. Often we utter a halfhearted “maybe,” “only if I have time,” or we stubbornly give an outright “no!” Many factors contribute to our hesitation, but I have discovered that it is most often our lack of trust and fear. What is it that we fear? We are afraid of entrusting our lives entirely to Jesus. We fear God will ask something too difficult of us, then God will be disappointed if we don’t produce results. We fear the future and worry about how exactly our life will play out. We fear making a big mistake or failing—not accepting a particular job or another offer, and we fear missing out. But, at the root of all of this is the fear of giving up control of our life.
It’s not always so much that we think that God is going to abandon us, but we are afraid of being transformed into the likeness of Christ. We are afraid of imitating Mary, and we fear the purifications and trials that it might entail to be changed by God’s grace. Mary said “no” to fear and “yes” to God’s plan. Listen to how the angel comforts you as well: Do not be afraid! Draw strength from Mary’s witness and intercession.
Reflection: How does the witness of the Virgin Mary bring me greater hope and encourage me to trust, not in my own abilities, but in the power of God’s grace at work in my life?
Reflection by Fr. Paul Sheller, OSB