The Scriptures record only a few things said by Mary, the mother of Jesus. Most are found in Luke’s Gospel and one appears in today’s Gospel reading. In today’s reading, Mary is addressed by an angel who appeared with no forewarning. The angel proclaimed incredible news that she would bear a son who was to be the Savior sent by God. Mary’s response to the angelic appearance and implausible news was, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done as you say.” (Lk. 1:38)
I can think of many things that Mary might have said to the angel. No one would have blamed Mary if she reacted with incredulity as Zechariah had done when the same angel announced that he and Elizabeth would have a child in their old age. Of course, the opposite sort of reaction might have been possible, as well; she could have taken the news as a statement about her own righteousness or sense of privilege or personal merits. I suppose it’s possible, as well, that she might have responded to the angel in the way that I respond to telemarketers, “No, sorry, you’ve reached the wrong person.”
There are a few more statements, familiar to all of us, that Mary avoided saying.
Luke’s story of the Annunciation would not have ended in quite the same way if Mary had expressed the sentiments expressed by many people about the coronavirus pandemic: “I don’t believe it.”
The story of our salvation would not have ended in quite the same way if Mary had responded with the words on the lips of many today who witness the plight of the poor: “That’s not really my problem; someone else needs to deal with it.”
Are you at all grateful that Mary didn’t say, “I don’t have time for this,” or “You’re intruding on my personal space,” or “I feel that my freedoms are being infringed upon”? I wonder what the world would be like today if Mary had said, “Sinners don’t deserve help; they have only themselves to blame.” Everyone should be glad that Mary didn’t offer an excuse like, “I’m not ready for this,” or “I don’t want any changes made to my life,” or “I don’t agree with this plan.”
Our society’s love affair with self-serving behavior, scapegoating, and denial of reality constitutes a spiritual pandemic of sorts. On Mary’s lips, the statements we hear and make daily would have had extremely destructive consequences for the whole world. Despite the obvious difference between Mary and us, the sorts of statements we make routinely can also have extremely destructive consequences for the world.
I’d like to suggest that all of us pay close attention to our words over the next few days. If you’re bored because your activities have been curtailed this year, you can make this into an entertaining game. Count the number of times in a day you respond to other people with words like Mary’s and the number of times you respond to people with the sort of words Mary never said.
This exercise might form the basis of your very own Christmas miracle if you’re willing to change your pattern of speech and behavior. Mary’s words allowed for the possibility of forgiveness for our sins, admittance into the new life of Baptism, and hope in the Resurrection. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our words could have a similar effect? If you’d like to have that sort of effect on the world, you have only to respond to God, “Let it be done as you say.”