Reading 1 IS 9:1-6
Responsorial Psalm PS 113:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Gospel LK 1:26-38
The Gospel reading for the Memorial of the Queenship of Mary details the events of the Annunciation. This passage illustrates an important theme for each of us. We see how Mary faithfully responded to the will of God regardless of the consequences she could have potentially experienced. When Gabriel greeted Mary, he did not address her by name. Rather, he greeted her with a title stating, “Chaire kecharitomene,” which St. Jerome would later translate as “Ave, Gratia Plena” in the Latin Vulgate, or “Hail, Full of Grace.” This is significant for a couple of reasons: 1) This is the only instance in all of Scripture where an angel greeted a person with a title rather than their given name, signifying that Mary is unique amongst all others in salvation history. 2) The title by which he greeted her explains why she was unique. The phrase signifies one to whom God has previously and continues to fully grace. Grace is God’s unmerited gift of Himself to us. One who is completely filled with God’s grace cannot simultaneously live in sin. This is why we say Mary was immaculately conceived because she experienced the indwelling of the divine life from the moment of her conception, which so filled her that she remained sinless for the entirety of her earthly life.
John the Baptist once stated, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30) For Mary, being filled with God’s life led her to perfect obedience and her ultimate joy and fulfillment. Thus, Gabriel bestowed this honorary title on Mary for the same reason we celebrate her today. Because by her humble submission to the will of God, the Blessed Mother brought to life the One who would save the world. Therefore, as Mary would exclaim in her visitation to her cousin Elizabeth, “From this day on, all generations shall call me blessed.” (Lk 1:48) Mary is the perfect embodiment of Jesus’ paradoxical teaching, “whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mt 23:12) As such, she acts as the example par excellence for each of us in how we are to receive the Word of the Lord, with docility and joyful acceptance.
Today, it is common to see obedience and freedom as contrasting realities. It is claimed that true freedom and fulfillment requires the rejection of an external plan for our lives. Thus, according to this view, freedom is license and obedience is slavery. I have struggled with this in my life at times. It is challenging to say “yes” to God’s teachings that are confusing or seem difficult to accept. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, it can be tempting to be suspicious of the Lord’s motives. Does He really want what is good for me? If so, why does He allow me to suffer? Why does His plan occasionally challenge ideas that seem so good to me? Isn’t my happiness the product of fulfilling my temporal desires?
Mary’s witness is a constant reminder to me that the Lord is faithful to His humble servants (Lk 1:48) and that He fulfills His promises to them. (Lk 1:45) When God calls me, I don’t always see the entirety of His plan. At the Annunciation, Mary didn’t fully know her future, only that God had asked her to respond with obedience. Though she did not fully understand how this plan would come to fruition (“How can this be…?”), Mary obeyed. Despite facing the possibility of suffering, divorce, persecution, and death by stoning, Mary obeyed. Lord, when I experience questions about your Word in this life which are confusing or difficult, give me the grace to respond as Mary did, “Let it be done unto me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)