Today is the feast of the Annunciation– celebrating one of the most astonishing moments of communication between God and humanity: the eternal, all-powerful God asks a young Jewish maiden if she will be his mother. Can he “break into” her life as her Son?
As recorded in the Gospel of Luke, this is a model for communication. God’s messenger surprises this young teenager with a message that is impossible to fully understand. (Words will always fail us when we try to explain the Incarnation!) And yet, this young woman listens so profoundly that she only needs to ask one question–regarding her own part–and then replies with an answer that is almost as amazing as God’s in its trust: “May it be done to me according to your word.” No conditions, no fears–just a wholehearted “yes” to God’s unexpected invitation.
As I journey through Lent, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I handle the “unexpected.” I tend to plan and organize most of the aspects of my life, which enables me to juggle many different responsibilities. But, when I stick rigidly to my plans, I find interruptions and emergencies hard to cope with. Perhaps it’s not so much the interruptions themselves as my attitude towards them. I can see the unexpected not just as an interruption to what I’m doing, but to my life, to my mission. And yet, God can invite me just as readily through interruptions as through the plans that I prayerfully make.
I took this photo several weeks ago. A willow tree in a park nearby shed dozens of branches in a recent storm. When I picked one up, I was struck how this most tender and flexible of branches is ready–in the midst of deep winter (the previous week it went down to -20 degrees Celsius)–to burst into growth. These tiny buds appear to be in complete readiness to respond to nature’s invitation.
Could this snapshot be a symbol of Mary’s interior state of readiness? A careful reading of the Gospels reveals that Mary didn’t respond to God in this open availability just once. She must have nurtured this amazing trust and openness to God throughout her life. This Lent, I would be grateful if my spiritual stance could open out to become just a tiny bit more like Mary’s. Like the willow branch, I want to be ready to burst out generously at God’s invitation.