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, favoured 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 favour 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 the 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 for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘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. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’
Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.
Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.
How important and special do you feel? Set aside your natural sense of modesty and reticence and think again. How important and special do you feel?
When asked questions about status and self-esteem most of us retreat behind a self-erected screen of understatement. Even when our achievements are significant we tend to retreat and don a cloak of ubiquitous anonymity.
With all that in mind, let us put ourselves in Mary’s position. This may seem an extraordinary flight of fancy, but it isn’t really. I asked how important and special you feel, and most of you will have thought: ‘I am not important or special at all; I am just and ordinary person.’ Just like Mary!
Mary was a teenager living out an ordinary life in an ordinary Jewish community. Like other girls who were approaching full adulthood, Mary’s family had arranged a wedding for her. They were probably very pleased to have organized an engagement between their daughter and a young craftsman, named Joseph. They knew that Mary’s future would be both secure and respectable. Mary’s ordinary life would continue to be unexceptional, but content. Then, on an unspecified day some two thousand years ago, Mary’s ordinary life was changed, as was ours.
We can only presume at the level of Mary’s faith and commitment to serving God. The depth of this young woman’s faith is presumed because of what happened to Mary on that fateful day. Mary was visited by a messenger from God, an angel. That messenger greeted ordinary Mary as someone very special in the eyes of God, someone so special that she had been chosen, by God himself, to do a unique job … something that would change the destiny of the whole human race, for ever.
If Mary had been asked, at the beginning of that momentous day, how important or special she felt, she would probably have laughed at the absurdity of the question. But, by the end of her encounter with that divine messenger, her destiny had changed.
Every day God is knocking at our doors and asking us to become important and special on his behalf. Every day we are being invited to carry the Good News of his Son into the world. It does not matter how ordinary we may consider ourselves to be, because that is not how God sees us. To God we all have the calling and the potential to rise above the ordinary and to take the light of Christ into the dark corners of this world. We just have to join Mary in saying: Let it be with me according to your word – and mean it!!