Intention: For all who live in fear of violence, exploitation or abandonment, that people’s commitment to peace and justice will grow and help to end their suffering.
Today’s Gospel | Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “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, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
A Lenten Reflection
There is a popular Lenten poster that reads, “If giving up chocolate has left us longing for chocolate rather than for God, perhaps this would be a good time to reassess.” With apologies to the many children for whom abstaining from candy can be a near-Herculean feat, the suggestion for us adults to examine our own ideas about Lenten sacrifice could be a helpful one. Specifically, we could look at why we sacrifice, at what spirit animates our practice. And for this, we have the example of Mary, the Mother of God.
In contemplating Mary’s selflessness in accepting God’s will that she would be the Mother of God, we cannot forget that she had just been told that she was to be an unwed mother in a time and place where that meant exile or death. To agree to face all that was sure to come would have been an extraordinary choice for anyone, let alone for a confused and unprepared teenage girl. Mary’s decision was more than a simple willingness to do something for God. Mary would allow her entire self to be changed into a gift to humanity.
As the author James Hollingworth, aka Ambrose Redmoon, once wrote, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one’s fear.” Mary’s courage was such that she was able to open herself to concerns and possibilities beyond her own. The Lenten call to sacrifice may begin as an exercise in deciding to what we are prepared to say no, but only as a path for discerning to what we ultimately will dare to say yes. And so, what will we accept into our hands once we have let go of something else?
Eternal Father, your son walked through a sinful world teaching humility and compassion. In this time of Lent, teach us, the people who bear his name, to follow his example. Help us to put aside our selfishness and pride, our judgments and divisions, our fears and indifference. May our faith, hope and love turn us back to you and to one another, so that we may share as one family in the salvation that your son has brought to all of us. We ask this of you who lives and reigns with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.