BY BISHOP DAVID WALKER
Two things seem clear when God calls someone to a really important role. God usually chooses someone weak and insignificant and God calls that person to die.
As a young girl Mary would not have been taught to read – young boys, yes, but not young girls. Ancient peasant cultures counted females, including wives, among a man's possessions, along with slaves, oxen and donkeys. The selection of Mary's husband would be entirely her parents' decision. She could not refuse their choice. As a female Mary would be allowed to enter the synagogue, but had to remain in the back or in the balcony, behind a grill. If perchance she learned to read, she was not allowed to read the Torah in a synagogue service. God calls the weak and insignificant to do God's great work.
Mary was also chosen to die. There are many ways of dying. Mary did her dying in shame and pain, as a refugee. God called Mary to the shame of an unwed mother…all of this asked of a girl twelve or thirteen. And her deaths were just beginning. As a widow she would have watched her son die the painful death reserved for the scum of society.
Mary had no role in Jesus' public life. Hers was a hidden life. But Mary, as God's secret, became one of the most influential celebrated women in history…This secret, weak, unlettered Mother of God, who is our mother, is the wisdom of God, the power of God.
– Rev Killian McDowell, OSB, in a sermon at St John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, January 1, 2005, reprinted in The Abbey Banner, Spring 2005
God's call to Mary mirrors God's call to each one of us. In baptism, God calls us, despite our own insignificance and weakness, and our feelings of inadequacy to "give birth" to God's compassion in our own Nazareths and Bethlehems. In that call, God calls us to "die" to our own doubts, fears, comfort and safety to embrace and be embraced by the new life of resurrection both in this life and the next.
As parents and spouses ourselves, we have travelled Mary's Lenten road; we have struggled with our own annunciations of God in our midst; we have doubted our own abilities and worthiness to "give birth" to Christ in our own homes and communities.
Sunday's feast of the Annunciation of the Lord – nine months before Christmas – is the perfect Marian feast for Lent, these forty days when our hearts and spirits are especially opened to the presence of Gabriel "announcing" to us that the Lord is with us, that we have nothing to fear, that we have been called by God to bring his Christ into our own time and place. If Mary, the young, unmarried, pregnant girl, can believe the incredible event that she is about to be part of, if she can trust herself and believe in her role in the great story, then the most ordinary of us, can believe in our parts, as well.
Gracious God, may we have the faith and trust of your daughter Mary to say 'yes' to your calling us to make known your presence in our time and place. Open our hearts to receive the gift of your Son; open our spirits that we may bring the gift of Christ to our waiting world.