The Christian faith is built upon the admission that the human heart is in need of renewal – that we need to turn more to God. This admission is absolutely pivotal for Christianity to make sense and have a practical impact on one’s life. When we view the witness of the Blessed Mother we can experience the renewal we need for ourselves.
The Annunciation is celebrated every March 25th. We remember the moment when Gabriel came to Mary and asked her to become the Mother of God. The details revolving around this tremendous moment in salvation history can actually provide us with all that we need to live the Christian life well.
Gabriel’s initial words which are rendered, “Hail,” can also be translated as “Rejoice.” Here, we have the very first words of the good news of the Gospel being proclaimed. What Gabriel is about to say and ask Mary must be prefaced with utter joy. This news is what the people of God have been waiting and praying for constantly for thousands of years. God has come to save His people.
If you are like me it is often difficult to find reasons to rejoice in our world today. There are so many pressures that surround us. Financial stresses, anxiety from work, and the desire to be present to our families but always feeling like we are not doing enough. Too often I can become overwhelmed by what I have to accomplish next on my list that I neglect to recall the joyous fact that God has truly redeemed the human condition.
Our first lesson of renewal concerning the Annunciation is simple and straightforward: we must be a people of deep joy who see the overall picture of Christ’s life and resurrection. If we are not joyful, we are misunderstanding the entire mission of Christianity.
The jubilation that Gabriel would have expressed is unprecedented. And yet, God asks for her help. He does not impose and He does not force the salvation of the world upon us. He waits upon this teenage girl from the middle of nowhere to give her assent. God does not need us, but He will not save us without us. Mary does not completely comprehend what is happening or how it will take place. But she accepts the offer of the Most High God.
In her “yes,” Mary allows sanctification to reach us all. Her acceptance of Gabriel’s offer, her fiat, is what most people focus on. However, isn’t it even more amazing that Mary does not require hard evidence or deep explanation of how these events will take place? Gabriel simply tells her “nothing will be impossible for God” (Luke 1:37). That is all she needed.
I know that I often seek to completely understand large tasks before I make a real commitment to them. I want to know what is going to happen, how it is going to happen and why it is going to happen even if I know it will bring me closer to God. For Mary, it was enough for Gabriel to state that God was behind all of this. One could picture her bowing her head out of loving reverence and accepting her role in giving birth to the Son of God. Instead of bowing my head in reverence for God’s will, I quickly desire to take control and look for power. Mary does no such thing, showing that true renewal, true faith is about receptivity not control.
Finally, we can view the beautiful side of Mary’s heart in her most famous song, The Magnificat, which follows her Annunciation and visit to her cousin Elizabeth. The birth of John the Baptist is intrinsically linked to the birth of Christ in the Gospel of Luke. Following her visit to her cousin to help her with the birth of her son, Mary sings: “My soul proclaims the goodness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-47).
After traveling to see Elizabeth and marinating in what Gabriel had told her, Mary cannot help but sing for joy. “The Mighty One has done good things for me” (Luke 1:49), she exclaims. I like to think that just as my wife sings certain songs to our two boys, Mary loved to sing this one as Jesus grew up in their home in Nazareth. Over the course of his early life, Jesus experienced faithful joy and radical trust in the Lord directly from his mom.
The Annunciation message continued to live on in Mary’s heart and it led her to a life dedicated to God. As we journey through our own challenges, difficulties and ordinary experiences let our song be hers. Mary reminds us that her Son’s entire life is about our heart, may her witness renew our commitment to him.
Image: Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci, Wikimedia Commons