“Let it be done to me according to your word.”
At the time of Gabriel’s appearance to Mary, she was probably 14 years old. Jewish women married at around 14 or 15 years of age. I am amazed at her spiritual depth and humility. We might, at first thought, have difficulty imagining such a serious, reflective response coming from someone so young. When we see a group of teens today we might think that all that is on their minds is sports, the latest fashions, or the best way to irritate parents and teachers. Having taught junior high boys and girls, I know, however, that when they are alone, like Mary was when Gabriel appeared, they are capable of the deepest thoughts and responses to God. And so I’m not surprised that God would choose someone so young.
Despite the goofing off and the occasional brattiness typical of this age, there remains an innocence. The seed of God is easily planted. (Although the resulting seedling is not always immediately manifested — at least not in ways which adults might expect.) Like Mary, the young are able to imagine great new ways of doing things. And they are willing to give these new ideas a try. For Mary, growing up under the oppression of Rome — with soldiers marching past her window every day, it would have been a challenge to imagine that a savior would be born to reestablish the people of God and to take up the cause of the poor. Yet she is able to imagine it and consents to be a part of God’s great plan. Someone older than Mary would simply have been overcome with cynicism. The words, “It’s always been this way and it always will; there is nothing I can do to change the world,” echo through the minds of most of us over thirty. The only thing the young doubt, however, is the status quo and sometimes their own abilities.
Mary, too, at first doubted her own ability and worthiness to fulfill this new idea presented by Gabriel. She was deeply troubled and confused. Her humility made it difficult for her to receive the words of greeting and honor from the angel. I think she probably still struggles at times from some of the attention she gets. When people move beyond acknowledging her as blessed among women because of her immediate willingness to be used of God and to be identified as his maidservant and somehow see her as more gracious and compassionate than her son Jesus, then I’m sure she is confused. When some people attribute messages and visions from Mary where she is supposedly holding back a wrathful hand of Jesus, then I’m sure she is deeply troubled. After all she herself acknowledged her own need of grace and of a savior. When her Aunt Elizabeth greets her with the words “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled,” Mary turns the attention toward God, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
Mary, to me, is a bright vision of potential — a potential that is available not only to the young but to all of us who would become as children in spirit; renewing the youthful spirit of adventure, of dreams, of innocent trust and willing obedience. She brings to me hope that new ideas can take root and grow in the midst of the toughest circumstances. That even though some ideas and plans for social justice and peace for this earth may seem as though they come from out of this world, if we will only respond as Mary, “Let it be done to me and through me according to your word,” then we will discover as Mary did that nothing is impossible with God. Mary is the Queen of Heaven because by her example she brings to us the courage to birth some part of that heaven here on earth.
Fourth Sunday of Advent 2 Sam. 7: 1-16; Rom. 16; 25-37; Lk. 1:26-38
Peace Connections: Making the connection between the Sunday Readings and issues of peace and justice. Copyright 1995, by Thomas L. Garlitz. “Not for profit” permission to reprint granted.