Mary’s “Yes” to God
With the Gospel of the Annunciation to Mary, we arrive today at the events leading directly to the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
Following a greeting and word of reassurance, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she is to be the mother of a child, whose title (‘Son of the Most High’) and future role indicate that he will be the long-awaited Messiah.
Mary, understandably, asks how this birth is to occur. She is married but, in accordance with the custom of the time where women married very young, is still living in her parental home and not yet having relations with her husband.
The angel’s majestic explanation lifts everything to a new level. The birth will not come about through relations with her husband but through her being “overshadowed” by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. The child to be born from her will be God’s ‘Son’ in a unique way. He will have a divine status far outstripping conventional expectation concerning the Messiah.
The explanation requires of Mary faith in the highest degree. Unlike Zechariah in connection with the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:11-19), she does not simply have to believe that God will overcome barrenness and old age. She has to believe that God’s power will take the place of the male parent entirely. Later, her cousin Elizabeth will say to her, “Blessed is she who believed the the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (1:45). Mary’s faith is the channel for God’s presence and power to enter the world in the mystery of the Incarnation.
Fr Brendan Byrne SJ