Today’s gospel is a familiar part of the Christmas story – the Angel Gabriel inviting Mary into the plans of God for redemption and salvation of the world. Given its proximity to Christmas, I suspect we quickly want to jump the 9 months and have our thoughts move quickly to the Nativity of Jesus. But let us put things on “pause” for a moment and savor the scene on its own – as have Da Vinci, Rembrandt, El Greco and countless iconographers over the ages.
My friend, Fr. Bill McConville OFM, notes that part of the church’s art tradition is that the scene of the Annunciation often portrays Mary, not empty-handed, but holding a book or a scroll, her reading and reflecting on Scripture being interrupted by the angel’s pronouncement. The tradition is that she is meditating on Isaiah 7 (today’s first reading) in which there is the promise that a virgin will bear a child.
Or Perhaps she was reflecting on Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the Suffering Servant Song in which the prophet describes the one who will be so marred and disfigured that he will not even seem a man, yet this is the one who will atone for the sins of humanity. Or maybe she was reflecting on any number of passages – perhaps the same one Jesus will share with the disciples on the road to Emmaus in which all the prophets and Law point to the Messiah. Hard to say. We do know that she holds “all these things” in her heart and pondered what they all might mean.
Mary is a woman of the Word. A woman to whom the Word of God came through the message of an angel. A woman who let that Word of God form her life, give her life, and gave life to the Word of God among us.
May we be people of the Word – our lives shaped, molded, and formed by God – so when life “announces” the joyful, the painful, and all the in-between, we are ready to say, “Be it done according to your Word.”