The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, "Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you."
She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean. But the angel said to her, “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High."
"I am the handmaid of the Lord," said Mary; "let what you have said be done to me."
— Luke 1:26-38
In these somber Lenten days, a burst of sunshine, the Annunciation, surrounds us with hope: God wishes to be one with us in our humanity. Mary believes the angel. She ponders in her heart what this message could mean. She questions, "How can this be?" Finally she responds wholeheartedly, "Let what you have said be done to me" and sings her Magnificat that "He who is mighty has done great things for me."
Am I open, as Mary was, to receive God’s call? There will be no visible angel speaking to me in clear words. Normally, God’s call is experienced in our heart, with gentle urgings that keep returning. Yes, we also will ponder, ask ourselves questions, weigh the pros and cons of each quiet call.
Are we more comfortable with the Lenten message: "Dust you are, and unto dust you shall return"? (Genesis 3:19) Dust is not important, common, nothing. But the Annunciation deifies dust — "and the Word became flesh."
"We are brothers and sisters of the incarnate Lord," Karl Rahner reminds us; "Our nothingness is filled with eternity. To say this is easy. To endure it is hard. Again and again we lie in the dust of our weakness: in the boredom of everyday routines, and in the disappointments of life."
Jesus, you have made yourself as available to us as bread; help us to realize our need to live in your presence and to listen to the gentle voice of your spirit in our hearts. Spirit of God, love is your gift to us and the gift you desire from us, receive our poor efforts to open our lives to all that you call us to be.
Rejoice so highly favoured!
Anne Schenck CSJ