May is a great time for thinking about decisions and futures. We celebrate ordinations, graduations, weddings…. We honor what has been achieved in people’s lives or our own, and we turn our eyes toward the next stage of our journey in life, whatever it may be.
It is a wonderful blessing to us all that in the month of May we reflect on Mary, a woman who had to make a very important decision when she was probably just in her teenage years. She shows us the courageous spirit that makes decision-making a joy, that deepens our excitement, roots our determination, and strengthens our desire, in the face of the unknown.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, she, a virgin, was confronted with a baffling mystery—a unique event in the history of the world that would never be repeated: She would conceive a child without a human father, and that child would be God. She did not ask herself if she were strong enough or smart enough or good enough to do what the angel proposed. That would only have led to discouragement. She simply said yes; she allowed God to decide everything, to arrange everything. She asked no questions. She raised no dust. She attracted no attention. She joyfully gave God her consent.
In his Gospel, Luke uses words for Mary’s consent that are used nowhere else in the entire New Testament in this same way. Her “be it done to me according to your word” was not just a simple acceptance. Nor was it the same kind of “Let your will be done” that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane—a prayer of resignation and surrender. Rather, Luke uses a word in Greek that signifies in Mary a joyous desire to collaborate with what God foresees for her. It is the joy of total abandonment to the good will of God. The entire annunciation narrative is really an invitation to joy, “Rejoice, O favored daughter” (cf. Lk 1:28); “May it be to me as you say!” (cf. Lk 1:38).
To respond with a joyful desire to collaborate with God is to respond with no calculations, no weighing of the options, no taking care of important business first. Mary lays everything before God and gives him the prerogative to lay things out as he sees fit. She boldly abandons herself into the hands of the Father, accepting all the risks, submitting herself to all the eventualities and crises that the future might bring. Thus she enters into the salvation event—a mother in faith an a mother in fact.
This month we might want to reassess how we are living our vocation, to rediscover the joy that comes from a Marian-style of life and decision-making.
Sr. Kathryn James Hermes, FSP
You might also want to read: Six Steps to Knowing What God Desires of You