"Behold" reflections by Katie Woltornist (CatholicMom.com) Fra Angelico [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]The Annunciation is all too familiar with us … we have often seen many images and heard the readings of this mystery that it can be easy to overlook. But God’s Word is alive and active. The Holy Spirit, the Author of Scripture, is alive in our hearts, and each time we reflect on the Gospels, He can speak something different to us. There are many times I have prayed with this image of the Annunciation. This particular image by Fra Angelico is the one that I prayed with personally for months at a time … it was my first encounter with Visio Divina. I have prayed on many aspects of it, ranging from Adam and Eve being sent from the Garden, to Gabriel’s proclamation, to Mary’s pondering of God’s Word. But as I pray with this today, certain words from Scripture strike my heart:
“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30)
Fear. It is an all-too-human experience. It is all throughout Scripture, especially with those called by God. I tell myself, “I know of fear in the human figures of Jeremiah and Peter, but surely not Mary.” I am surprised as I sit with the reality that Mary was afraid at the initial greeting of the Angel Gabriel. Our Blessed Mother had a very special grace. She was conceived without sin, and this meant that she was in perfect relationship with God. In this relationship, she was able to respond to God’s love in its fullness and to live a life of complete grace, something foreign to the human condition since Adam and Eve. In light of this grace, the mystery of the Annunciation speaks something profound. A woman in complete grace experienced fear. Oftentimes, I think it can be easy to think of Mary as someone so distant to us. She was without sin, so we can often assume that she avoided aspects of the human condition -- such as fear. But Mary did experience humanity. While not being “of the world,” she was “in the world,” as Christ her own Son was. Even with the grace of being conceived without sin, Mary was perfectly human. While not a sinner, she felt the realities of the human experience. When presented with a call much beyond our capacity, the common reaction is fear. Place yourself in Mary’s position. A woman raised in Jewish tradition, she knew the prophesies of the Messiah. She knew the passages in Scripture where His suffering was revealed. Mary was betrothed to Joseph. She understood the punishment of stoning was before her if she was found with child. And what about the shame which was to follow when the gossip of her pregnancy spread throughout the town? All these circumstances were part of Mary’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel. Mary knew that saying yes to this unbelievable gift of carrying the Savior within her would also bring suffering. And in this, she said yes. With this response, she received, “With God, nothing will be impossible.” In fear, when presented with our own calls from God, these words that were given to Mary are also offered to us. “Do not be afraid.” God calls each of us. Very often, he takes our weakest points and vices to be the places of His grace and work. In whatever ways He is calling, you certainly might be afraid. It may be beyond your capacity. But it is not beyond His. In whatever God is presenting to you, He is asking you to respond as Mary did. Mary knows the fears you are confronted with. She can relate to the pain you experience. She runs to you- encouraging you to give your response to the Lord. What will you say to God? Will you run to Mary in your weakness, and ask for her assistance in giving your yes? Mother Mary, intercede for us, that we may respond with our whole selves like you!
Copyright 2018 Katarina Woltornist