Spirituality of the Readings
“Let it be done unto me according to your will,” Mary said.
A real Archangel appeared, handing out shocking news of the Annunciation. What a jolt this must have been for someone so unassuming, so self-effacing as Mary.
Did she flinch? No, she reacted with calm. Simply put, “I accept. Tell me how this wonderful birth will happen.” (Lk 1:38)
But the series of events that followed do not at all seem worthy of her calm. Mary was a betrothed woman who had been found pregnant! Her husband-to-be had been about to divorce her! Until an angel explained things in a dream.
And walking was the mode of transportation in those days, sometimes for astonishing distances, so the census call did not make her promise easy. She was the in the last part of her pregnancy—the most difficult time of all to travel from Nazareth in the far north of Israel down to Bethlehem, which is south of Jerusalem. Not an impossible distance, but in the last month of pregnancy, a tremendous challenge. Joseph in his kindness got a donkey for Mary to ride.
When they finally got to Bethlehem, a very small village, had there was no room for them in the inn. And since the infant was “lying in a manger, ”and there is not a word in scripture about a cave, the most likely birth place would have been in some kind of barn or stable for domestic animals. This birth was not bathed in satin finery, not luxurious. Jesus was born into poverty and discomfort.
This Sunday we see Mary just days after the grueling journey and the amazing birth (Gospel). She is carrying out the promise she had made to Gabriel. All is well. The child is healthy and cuddly, and the angels, unable to contain their joy, have once more danced hugely into Mary’s life. Even the animals understand.
It would seem that Mary’s calm could now seek some quiet and rest after all that had happened. But no. Unkempt shepherds, straight from the fields, “went in haste” to the shelter, announcing in their craggy voices that they had been told who this baby was. The angels had trumpeted it to them! Wise men, or as we say now, kings, found the holy shelter and barged right in, bearing royal gifts.
Does this all impinge on Mary’s peace? It seems not. She is good to her word. The Gospel says that she quietly "kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
Part of it was her personality, of course, but even more, it was the presence of God deep within her, so deep that she let her life unite with his. This produced a son. Existence on this earth is never free from hazards and setbacks and stunning difficulties, but as Mary watched each movement of the newborn baby, she breathed in a holiness, a pitch of holiness that even she had not known before.
Her calm took place within a crowded, difficult, cramped stable, one we can only imagine within our own hearts.
“Let it be done unto me according to your will.” Let each of us try to be able to echo her words, at least for a few moments. Try it now.
“Let it be done unto me according to your will.”
John Foley, SJ
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University