Listening and Responding
The Lord’s call to Mary and her response to this vocational invitation is the perfect model for us to follow. It is magnificent in its simplicity and unfathomable impact. She was young, holy, and otherwise very ordinary. The angel Gabriel, came and greeted her with the prayer that has been on the lips of the faithful for centuries, “Hail Mary, the Lord is with you!”
The ability to respond to embrace and live out our vocation is fundamentally rooted in our awareness and openness to the presence of God. Only with him and in him do we discover the grace necessary to give our entire lives back to him. The greater our certainty of his love and trustworthiness, the more perfect becomes our response to the call. This doesn’t mean, of course, that our human nature becomes somehow angelic. It only means that we seek his will despite and through every obstacle.
Mary, full of grace, was neither angel nor diving. She was human and afraid. The Angel tells her,
“Do not be afraid.”
Why? Because the Lord is with her! At this point many prophets and kings, men and women from Adam and Eve until today, have hesitated, questioned, and doubted not only their own senses, but God himself. His presence may not be real! Or it may not be enough! The young virgin, who was blessed
“because she believed all that the Lord had promised her,”
She listened and waited to see what the Lord had to say. Knowing that the Lord was with her, and that there was no reason to fear, she had the peace just to listen. This was a true dialogue between the peak of creation and the Creator through the mediation of his messenger, Gabriel. On one hand this seems obvious, but on the other hand we know that when given a challenging task or presented with a mystery, we often don’t listen – but begin moaning, complaining, asking questions, or distracting ourselves from the unpleasantness of it all! Common sense tells us, however, that if we do not listen to what God is saying, we will not hear his plan for us, nor his consolation, admonition, love or mercy. How do we expect to know or understand anything! Oh, but if we listen, we can then go deeper and ask the questions that arise in our hearts.
We know that Mary had one important (logical actually) question. She asked not in doubt but in a genuine search for knowledge.
“How is this to be done?”
She knew that she had not had relations with a man nor did she intend to have relations with a man, or else this question would be trivial. She does ask. How was she to conceive and give birth to a child and remain a virgin?
She continued to listen, and her patience was rewarded. The response came:
"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.”
Then, though Mary did not ask (nor perhaps need a sign), it was revealed that her cousin Elizabeth – long infertile – was 6 months pregnant!
Undoubtedly, an assent and act of faith was required. Mary did not have divine knowledge, but the knowledge that comes with faith. It was to this that she submitted her will and assented to the call of the Lord. She welcomed the grace, and cast fear and doubt aside. False humility had no place in her heart as she relied totally on his grace. She stated with conviction and hope, “Let it be done into me according to thy word.”
Then the attentive and listening Virgin, having responded to her call and particular vocation, went in haste to serve the Lord in her cousin Elizabeth. An authentic vocation lived well draws us out of the ego and into a life lived for others. It deepens ones relationship with Christ and thereby with others. It makes room for Christ in the center of our being. Emptied of self we become missionaries, carrying Christ with us wherever we go.