What to say about today’s Gospel story that hasn’t already been said. The angel Gabriel comes to a little town in Galilee, called Nazareth. He announces to a young virgin girl that she is going to become pregnant and give birth to the Son of God. “How can this be since I have had no relations with a man?” she asks.
How can this be, indeed? To appreciate everything that’s going on here, we have to take a few steps back and view this scene from a distance. Nazareth was a little town, in a little province, on a little river. Mary was a young girl, a virgin. Everything about this picture is small. Nothing exciting ever happened in Nazareth. If it weren’t for Jesus, we would probably never have heard of it.
But, here’s this little town taking center stage in the “Greatest Story Ever Told.” And, this little girl, this virgin from this little town is the star. The angel calls her “full of grace”. This isn’t some second-rate angel, not Clarence from “It’s a Wonderful Life”, it’s Gabriel, the archangel, one of God’s right hand men. And he’s come to Nazareth to announce the birth of the Son of God! It’s all up to Mary. Will she agree? Will she cooperate? Imagine if she had said “no”.
Part of Gabriel’s sales pitch is to tell Mary that cousin Elizabeth, elderly cousin Elizabeth, is also pregnant. That news alone boggles the mind. Maybe that was Gabriel’s plan. Shock Mary with the news of Elizabeth and she’ll be more likely to accept the news about God’s plans for her.
Anyway, as we all know, Mary did say “yes.” Her “yes” set in motion a series of events that would lead her through great joy and great sorrow. Her life was changed forever and so were yours and mine. More than 2,000 years ago, this little girl from this little town said “yes” to something she couldn’t possibly have understood. She did it because she had faith.
How many times does God ask things of us? How often does He give us a chance to say “yes”. And how many times do we disappoint him? I think we’d all like to say “never.” But you know it wouldn’t be true. That’s why Mary is so important to us Catholics. She’s a model of how we should respond to the Lord. That’s why we so often say, “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.”
She knew when to say “yes”. Hopefully some of her obedience will rub off on us.