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Lindsey Mitzel ponders Mary's quiet, brave example of evangelization.

Today is the feast of the Annunciation. As Catholic Christians, we believe St. Gabriel, an angel, appeared to Mary on this day to announce that she would conceive and bear Jesus, the Incarnate God. I have written before about Mary’s response to St. Gabriel — she does not answer “Yes,” insomuch as offering her permission for this to take place (after all, God doesn’t need our permission). St. Gabriel is also not asking Mary a question. Rather, his words inform her of what is to come and of what she can expect. Mary’s response to Gabriel is humble. “Amen — so be it.”

Yet there is something about this encounter that strikes me anew. When addressing Mary, Gabriel uses the phrase, “You will conceive” (Luke 1:31), contrasting what Mary is told about her cousin Elizabeth; that she “has also conceived” (Luke 1:36). While God doesn’t need our permission to work, He also does not force His work upon us. He invites us to Himself and waits for us to respond.

I was talking with my husband recently about hardships we’ve experienced within our parenting journey. When I think about the mystery of the Annunciation, I tend to see the immense gift of Jesus becoming incarnate, allowing Himself to be made into the most vulnerably small, seemingly insignificant person inside of a woman. I get lost in that gift — in the mystery of God’s incredible desire to be close to us — and perhaps forget another part of the story. Mary was a poor, common, otherwise insignificant young woman, who when visited by St. Gabriel one day, accepted inconvenience, shame, potential sentence of death for conceiving outside of marriage, and a lack of certainty about her future and her son’s.

I am sure I am not the only type-A personality here who prefers God speak to me with a full ten-year plan, complete with explanations and footnotes. I tend to struggle with trusting God and taking leaps of faith without seeing the play-by-play in slow motion repeat (with footnotes) beforehand. Mary, however, chooses to trust her life and well-being to the goodness of the Lord — in fact, she later sings, “for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name” (Luke 1:49).

Yesterday, I was in a store with one of my children, and a woman shopping nearby stopped to ask me about the baby clothes I was picking out. She was expecting her second and bursting with joy as she told me that they’d just had an ultrasound that day and were waiting for their older daughter to get home from school so they could all open the envelope revealing if their baby was a boy or girl together. In St. Luke’s Gospel, right after learning that she will conceive Jesus, Mary goes to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, “In haste” (Luke 1:39). Mary travels to visit the one St. Gabriel names as also being particularly blessed by God in miraculously conceiving and is able to share her joy with Elizabeth. The Bible specifically recounts Elizabeth’s joy, mirrored in her son’s leaping at the sound of Mary’s voice.

I wonder how many others in Mary’s life encountered joy as her belly rounded? Elizabeth cries out in a loud voice, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? ... Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:42-45). Elizabeth draws contrast between the blessing of believing what the Lord tells us will come to pass, even if we cannot understand it with our limited vision and abilities, and the chastisement imposed on her husband, Zechariah for the choice of unbelief as St. Gabriel revealed the future to him. Mary accepts what Gabriel tells her will transpire; Zechariah doesn’t even seem to believe the miraculous could happen.

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I am certain that we have all experienced moments in our life where something happens outside of “our plans.” I think it’s safe to say that we have also all experienced this in a heightened way over the past year and are probably continuing to experience it. My second son was born one year ago. As with my other pregnancies, his was high-risk and challenging, especially in the last few months. Two weeks before his birth, my husband began encountering patients who had contracted COVID-19. Just one week prior, he had almost been unwittingly exposed twice. The possibility that my husband might be quarantined during the birth of our son, as well as shortly after, became very real.

The whole situation was so messy (and isn’t birth always, anyway?). And while my husband was mercifully able to attend our baby’s delivery, like so many others, we lost precious moments. Our little one didn’t meet most of his extended family for months upon months. His baptism was shared via Zoom. Yet, like we have all found, perhaps especially within the stripping of this past year, the Lord is not found in the fire, or in the wind. He is found in the still small quiet. This past year has caused all of us to retreat to some extent in many ways, and for many different reasons. Isn’t it interesting, though, that for Mary, upon accepting the conception of the Lord in herself, the first thing she does is to “go in haste.” Given how she could be, and likely was treated, having conceived outside of marriage to Joseph, it would make total sense for her to retreat until Jesus was born. But having nothing to hide, she bravely goes out to tell of the Good News — the first evangelizer!

In 1 Kings, Elijah retreats to a cave, telling the Lord that the Israelites have rebelled, broken the altars, and have murdered all the prophets — he alone remains, and they are seeking his life (1 Kings 19:10). The Lord tells Elijah to “Go out” to stand before the Lord. There is a “strong and violent wind rending the mountain and crushing rocks.” Then there is an earthquake. Then a fire. It is after all these events, that Elijah hears a “light silent sound” and goes out to meet the Lord when He passes by (1 Kings 19:11-12).

It’s interesting to note that the mountain Elijah was hiding on is the same mountain where God appeared to Moses. Like Elijah, Moses fled because his life was pursued, but God also tells him to return [to Egypt] and serve Him. The USSCB notes that as Elijah was asked to go out of the cave and stand before the Lord (1 Kings 19:11), to “stand before the Lord” is a “literal translation of a Hebrew idiom meaning, ‘to serve the Lord.’” 


Mary’s fiat, her acceptance of God’s Word to her, culminates in quiet. #catholicmom

Mary’s fiat, her acceptance of God’s Word to her, culminates in quiet. She is the first evangelizer, but she is not the first herald. Moses is called out of hiding in the desert to serve the Lord by proclaiming the God of Israel and entreating Pharaoh to physically free the enslaved Israelites. Elijah is called out of a cave to serve the Lord by proclaiming the God of Israel and spiritually free the Israelites enslaved by their idols. Elizabeth (and John the Baptist in utero) [loudly] herald Jesus’ coming into the world and proclaim Him to be “the Lord.”

Mary accepts this as so. She proclaims Jesus by her reception of Him into her body. She heralds Him in birthing Him into the world. She proclaims Him by nurturing Him every day in relative obscurity as he grows in independence (Luke 2:52). She heralds Him at the Wedding of Cana, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).

Perhaps I speak not only to myself when I entreat us to seek the Lord’s “light silent sound” in our lives and come out of our hiding (whatever that might mean to us individually) to serve Him. The plethora of saints show us that God does not call all of us to be physically loud. However, the quietest saints, cloistered, or who had taken vows of silence, also show us that it is very possible to proclaim Christ loudly in the way we live.

Mother Mary, please pray for us, especially today on the feast of Christ’s Annunciation, that we would pause to hear the still silent voice of Christ and continue to invite Him further into our hearts.


Copyright 2021 Lindsey Mitzel
Image: Andreas Wohlfahrt (2019), Pexels