In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “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 holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Today’s gospel account of the Annunciation—one which we no doubt have heard many times—may take on added significance if we read it in light of a similar story from Greek mythology, that of Europa. Europa, a princess of Phoenicia, caught the fancy of Zeus, who took on the form of a white bull and wandered among the flocks of her father. Fascinated by the creature, Europa approached the bull and climbed upon its back. At that moment, the white bull carried her off across the waters and revealed himself as Zeus. Finally, the two reached the isle of Crete, where Zeus seduced Europa who eventually bore him three children and became queen of the island.
While both stories involve a sort of union between the divine and the human, their differences reveal a key mark of Christian life. How different is God’s interaction with Mary, awaiting her fiat that she might cooperate with the plan of salvation. In this moment of consent we see the dignity which God has given the human race, endowing it with the freedom to choose to accept the Word of the Lord into our hearts. In this, Mary is our model and our intercessor, giving birth to an entire spiritual family of faith and love.
—Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J.
Lord, when you ask us to move into situations that challenge our security and courage, let us remember the “yes” of your Mother. Though the how’s, the why’s and the what if’s may have swirled through Mary’s thoughts, she moved in faith to be the Mother of God. When uncertainty and fear attempt to suppress our “yes” to you, we need to go to your Mother who will free us to respond, “let it be with me according to your word.”
—The Jesuit Prayer Team