During the month of May, we turn at least a part of our spiritual attention to focus on the Mother of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary. During this month we sing hymns in honor of the Mother of God, some parishes will hold special Marian Devotions, others will have a May Crowning of a statue in honor of Mary or other devotional practices as well. In all of it, we honor the one through whom the Incarnation of Christ, our Lord, was accomplished.
In the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke we hear the announcement: “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name Him, Jesus. He will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’” (Luke 1:26-33)
We reflect upon these words of Holy Scripture each and every time we gather in honor of Mary, the Mother of God. These words are so very important since they are the inauguration of presence of our Lord Jesus Christ with us, His people. So they also serve as a connection to all else that we encounter during the rest of our liturgical year, especially the seasons of Lent and Easter. The prayer that we say as a part of the Marian Devotions, the prayer which is also said daily at the Angelus, helps us to make the connection. “O Lord, we ask You, pour forth Your grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Your Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
As we reflect on what we pray, we say that the message of an angel was given, not only to Mary, but rather through her it was given to all of us. So therefore we must examine this passage and seek to apply it to our own journey of faith. The passage begins with the angel coming to Mary with words of greeting and announces that the ‘Lord is with her.’ This greeting reminds us as well that we are invited into and to partake of the fellowship of Almighty God. We are invited to bear forth the presence of Christ into the world, just as Mary did. Certainly not in a physical sense as she did, but rather in a spiritual sense to bear forth the presence of Christ, in our worship of Almighty God, in our fellowship of one Christian to another, in our teaching of others to follow Jesus, in our work to build up the kingdom of God.
When Mary is perplexed concerning the angels greeting, the angel answers her with the words, ‘“Do not be afraid.’ These too are important words which are heard many times throughout the pages of Scripture. While we may not consider them of great importance, they surely are, since quite a lot of our actions and thoughts that turn us away from God come about in response to fear. We are afraid of what might happen if we follow God instead of those around us; we are afraid of what other people will think; we are afraid that things will be out of our control, and many other fears besides. Through the message of the angel, God tells us, that when we place everything in His hands, there is no reason to be afraid, since He is in control. This does not mean that everything will go exactly right. It does not mean that everything will be easy. But it does means that God is trustworthy, and when we place our trust in Him, we are standing on solid ground.
The angel then goes on to explain at length that the Son of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be conceived in her womb and will be born for all humanity. The angel confirms his announcement in several phrases, “Jesus: will be great; will be called Son of the Most High; will be given the throne of David; will reign over the house of Jacob; will have an everlasting kingdom.” In and through this we are reminded that we, as weak and sinful humans, need continual support and reminders from God concerning our forgiveness, and especially our high calling to join with Jesus in building the kingdom of God. Hearing the message only once, or only on infrequent occasions, is not enough. We need continual support. This also reminds us that our religious practices must be continuous as well. We must gather weekly to worship God and receive His Son in Holy Communion; we must pray daily to receive the strength and counsel of God in our lives.
Mary is then again perplexed how all of this will happen and the angel explains, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; He will be called Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) This reminds us that if we place ourselves in the presence of Almighty God, He will come to us and lead us in the right direction. He will bring to us the answers that we need when we strive to always place ourselves before Him in worship and in prayer.
Lastly we come to the high point of this encounter. Mary’s response to the angel, “Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’” (Luke 1:38) This is Mary’s “yes” to God. It is our ultimate example of cooperation of the divine and the human to accomplish God’s work in the world. In our reflection on this entire passage and especially during this month of May as we reflect on the role of Mary within our faith journey, this “yes” of Mary must be an example for us and point us to assert the same “yes” within our own lives. We are challenged to examine where we can give a further “yes” to God in every aspect of our lives. God desires that we worship Him in our life of personal prayer and weekly worship. Will we say “yes” to God? Especially during this Easter season, we hear the call of Jesus to follow Him in His risen life. Do we say “yes” to this call? We are called to seek to cast aside the sins in our lives and seek forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance. Will we say “yes” to God’s forgiveness extended in this Sacrament? We are called to show love, compassion and mercy to each other in our daily journey of life. Will we say “yes” to following this way of Jesus in the world?
As we continue on in prayer and devotions in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary during this month of May, as we continue to pray the ‘Hail Mary’ throughout our life of prayer, let us contemplate Mary’s ‘yes’ to God. And let her be truly our mother and our example to say ‘yes’ to God as well.