I AM THE HANDMAID OF THE LORD
(A biblical refection on The Solemnity of THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD, Friday March 25, 2011)
Gospel Reading: Lk 1:26-38
First Reading: Is 7:10-14; Psalms: Ps 40:7-11; Second Reading: Heb 10:4-10
The Scripture Text
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus.
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Lk 1:26-38 RSV)
Imagine the scene: The archangel Gabriel came to Mary and announced the news that she had been chosen to conceive and bear the Son of God. Imagine her astonishment at this announcement. And when she asked how this would come about, the answer was just as startling. The angel gave no human or physiological explanation. The child would be conceived in a way that surpassed nature. Instead Gabriel assured Mary that nothing is impossible for God. The Holy Spirit himself would overshadow and empower her to conceive the Word-made-flesh. Surely Mary could not have comprehended this mystery, yet she gave her wholehearted and unreserved assent: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let is be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
Mary’s fiat was not a “one-time-only” consent. It was repeated throughout her life as she learned to listen to the Holy Spirit, to be docile to the Spirit’s movements, and to let Him teach her how to raise her Son and follow Him as perfectly as she did. As the late Pope John Paul II wrote about her: “Mary, who conceived the Incarnate Word by the power of the Holy Spirit and then in the whole of her life allowed herself to be guided by His interior activity, will be contemplated and imitated. …above all as the woman who was docile to the voice of the Spirit, a woman of silence and attentiveness, a woman of hope” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 48).
Overshadowed by “the power of the Most High” at the Annunciation and again “clothed with power from on high” on Pentecost (Lk 1:35;24:49;Acts 1:14), Mary is the model of a Spirit-filled disciple. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, she was the first to believe in Jesus, the first to follow Him in love and service.
Around two thousand years after Mary said “yes” to God, she still shows us what God can realize in us: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). Through the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to love and follow Jesus as His disciples today and to carry Him love to others. Like Mary, we can bring Christ into the world through our prayer, our love, and our docility to the Holy Spirit.
Short Prayer: I love You, Jesus, my Lord and my Saviour. Your tenderness in sharing my humanity is beyond my ability to grasp. Thank You for taking part in my human life. Thank You for being with me in every situation. Amen.
Jakarta, March 25, 2011
A Christian Pilgrim