“Let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

I think that most people, including myself, like to be in control. We don’t like it when things are out of our capacity to fix. We also don’t like when we can’t see how certain situations will end up. I like to be secure, comfortable and safe.

Those are all good things. Mary, however, teaches us that there is a different way. That the way of holiness offers us something more even though it appears to be less. Receptivity is the key to understanding the Annunciation and the identity of the Blessed Mother. First, Mary needed to be listening the day that Gabriel came to visit her. She needed to be spiritually attuned to hearing what God was asking of her. In the quiet of Nazareth, she still needed to be open to the fact that something tremendous could happen.

We know that Nazareth was a backwater town in Galilee where nothing special or spectacular ever happened. Mary was a normal teenage girl. She was poor and led a very ordinary life. That is something that so many of us can understand. Ever feel like your life is so normal, so simple and unknown that perhaps nothing dramatic could ever happen to you?

Inside of this context, Gabriel appears and changes everything. Mary is told that she will bear the son of the Most High God. She has never known a man and yet she will conceive and bear the savior of the world. It is the humility and simplicity of Mary’s heart that opens up the ability for her to say yes to the Lord. We know that she was born free from original sin and that this is deeply a part of her mission for humanity. However, I think it is her receptivity that gets lost because we tend to speak about her being sinless rather than her being radically open to God.

Receptivity is the result of holiness, but being more docile to what God asks of us leads to our sanctification as well. I often overthink God’s will for my life. I can ask, over and over again, what He wants me to do and what He is asking of me. The saints tell us that this is a good practice but they also reveal that God acts in our circumstances. Often, God’s will for us is right in front of us.

For Mary, that meant she was to listen to Gabriel and accept her call to be the Mother of God. Our circumstances, more than anything else, reveal God’s will. What am I meant to do with my day and my attention? How am I meant to become a saint and be holy? As a married man and father of two, I must be present to my wife and children. I must pray, extensively and intimately, every single day and I must sacrifice for my family. Denying these tasks or even simply going through the motions when accomplishing them is a rejection of God’s invitation to receive what He has given me.

Too often, I can convince myself that maybe there is some grand plan that I need to be fulfilling otherwise I must not be living my faith properly. The role and witness of Mary has truly helped me to see that she and Joseph simply did what God asked them to do. That was difficult and challenging. They had to leave their home. They had to raise Jesus in Egypt. They had to struggle financially. They did it all in trust because they received this mission from God.

Our mission from God is found in the commitments we currently find ourselves in. Other attempts to try and figure out God’s will are simply a fight against receptivity. I think that is what the Annunciation truly is teaching me this year. Gabriel came to Mary in her home and in her ordinary circumstances. God desires to come to me in my normal moments as well. He is not going to come with an angel declaring news that will shift salvation history, but He is coming to call me to something great: a life of holiness that is fascinated with being open to how He is calling me to make Him the center of my life.

Mary gave birth to the savior. Before she did so, she carried him for 9 months in her womb. Being receptive to Christ means that we are willing to carry him everywhere we go.

I want to strive to do this more at work by bringing Christ into the conversation more explicitly. I want to do this more in my prayer life by giving more intentional time to God each day. Finally, I want to do this by throwing away my phone and other distractions and being completely present to my wife and sons when I am home.

Doing these simple tasks will not make us as famous or well-known as the Blessed Mother. They will not make us sinless either. However, they will make us more receptive to what God is asking us to do, and that will slowly shape us into the vessel that He is calling us to be.


Image: Leonardo da Vinci, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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