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’ (Luke 1:30-35).
“How can this be?” This is a perfectly normal reaction from a person faced with something that does not seem to make sense. Mary, an ordinary, humble, Jewish girl, is visited by an angel who tells her she will conceive a son, though she has no husband, and this child will be the Messiah that her people have longed for. Her reaction— “How can this be?”—is perfectly understandable.
It is what follows Mary’s initial reaction that makes her a model disciple. She doesn’t try to bargain with the angel (“Let me just get married first; then I can be the mother of God”) or take charge of the situation (“If this is going to happen, we have some planning to do!”). Rather, her response is one of complete acceptance of God’s will. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Mary’s “yes” with no questions or conditions reveals her discipleship. Her “yes” is also paralleled years later in her son’s acceptance of God’s will on the night before his crucifixion: “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Despite any assurances of what the future will hold, Mary places her complete trust in God and does what God asks. This is the model that we are called to emulate. Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection do not mean that we will never face suffering or difficulty. God simply promises that he will never abandon us, no matter what we face in life.
How is God calling you to be a disciple in your life? What holds you back from accepting what God is asking?
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available from the RENEW International