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
What is it to be overshadowed by another? It is to be minimized and outmatched, to let the emphasis fall on another and not on you. Yet, to be overshadowed by the power of the Most High is not a kind of falling darkness, nor is it a sidelining, head bowed in shame while flashbulbs strobe another’s rejoicing. God’s overshadowing is less about minimizing and more about fulfilling –making up for our limitation, filling in our faults, raising up our lowliness to his perfection.
If we give ourselves willingly to God, hand over our lives to his plan, we can be certain that he will overshadow us. Sometimes, though, that brings fear, a kind of butterflies in the stomach that’s often less about what the cost might be and more about the outcome – a defeat even after all that work. To that, we need only to look to Mary. Who would she be if she wasn’t the Mother of God? We don’t know and we can’t know because Mary wouldn’t have been Mary if she didn’t say “yes.” There is something almost unsettling about God’s will for us – we cannot be ourselves if we do not let God form us into who we authentically are. To be ourselves is to be overshadowed by a God who turns failure to victory and death to new life.
What would it be like if God really asked me to radically change my life, to change it not so much for me and my desires, but to change it for him? How would I want to respond?
—Cyril Pinchak, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic teaching English at University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy, Detroit MI. He is also a published poet.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will, all I have and possess. All you have given me I now give back to you, O Lord. All is yours, dispose of it according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace; that is enough for me.
—St. Ignatius Loyola (click here to download the prayer card)