Not a mantra to be mumbled but a reassurance to be treasured –The Annunciation of the Lord – Isaiah 7:10-14 and 8:10/ Luke 1: 26-38
At the annunciation, the message of the angel to Mary was that ‘the Lord is with her.’ There is nothing more assuring than to know that the ‘Lord is with us.’ But that should be an automatic faith response for all people of faith. Words that Jesus himself reassured us of at his ascension when he said, “and know that I am with you always, unto the end of time.“ (Matthew 28:20).
The message of the annunciation that the angel Gabriel communicated to Mary consisted of a greeting and a word of assurance. The greeting, “Hail, favoured one” is interesting and enlightening. ‘Ave’ or Hail is a Latin word, used by the Romans as a salutation and greeting. It is the singular imperative form of the verb avēre, which meant ‘to be well’; thus, one could translate it literally as ‘be well.’ But this was not all, for the angel also called Mary the ‘favoured one’. Yet, Mary is the favoured one not the favourite one!
The Bible declares that “God does not show favoritism” (Romans 2:11). God loves everyone equally. There is nothing we can ever do to make God love us more and there is nothing we can ever do that will make God love us less. Mary is not God’s favourite but she is the favoured one; she has found favour with the Lord for who she is and how she lived her life; in fidelity to God. It is no small thing to be regarded, to be favored, especially when you are exceedingly aware that you should not be.
To this favoured child is the message of assurance, “the lord is with you” “do not be afraid.” God knows how much we all need to be assured because so many of us worry about the challenges at hand. Seneca said, “we suffer more in imagination than in reality.” The words of the angel were clear to Mary and by extension to us, “do not be afraid, the Lord is with you.” For those who pray the rosary daily, these words are not a mantra to be mumbled but a reassurance to be treasured.
This story of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary is surrounded by the impossible. Reading the Biblical narrative one can list the impossibilities and yet the angel is firm when he says, “nothing is impossible for God.” While ‘the’ annunciation may be the message of an angel proclaiming the plan of salvation for human kind, we too celebrate our annunciation each time God asks something that seems impossible of us yet asked for with the same assurance, “do not be afraid.”
Is it easy to say yes when God asks the ‘impossible’ from us? Was it easy for Mary when God asked her for what seemed humanly impossible? We know that Mary was perplexed at first, even scared. Mary had questions too, “how can this be since I am a virgin?” Mary was not without her doubts. While the narrative records the annunciation in a couple of lines it would be well within our reasoning to safely assume that she debated, considered and reasoned this calling. Having flashes of doubt is not sinful, living in constant doubt turns our hearts of faith away from a loving God and his plan for us.
When God calls us, he singles us and chooses us. Our response often is “how can this be?” Me? Who am I? Why am I favored? How can the Lord be with me? While these words of doubt may resonate at times in our hearts let us be assured on this day of HIS presence in our lives. Mary’s story moves us all from who we think we are to what God has called us to be, from observant believer to confessing apostle.
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