Mary of Nazareth - The First Disciple
Luke 1:26-38; 46-56
Mary was just a girl; about fourteen years old when she was betrothed to Joseph. She lived in a dusty little town in Galilee called Nazareth. It was an unremarkable place populated by very ordinary people.
One day, as the Scripture tells us, a messenger from God came to Mary and offered her an extraordinary proposition. The messenger informed her that God had chosen her to conceive and bear God's Son who she would name Jesus (which means "God saves"). Naturally, this came as a great shock to Mary.
After all, she was just a simple Jewish girl who was recently engaged to be married to the town carpenter. Her first response was fear. The presence of this divine messenger scared her. Then, she probably began to wonder: How would she explain this to Joseph?
Why did God choose her? What would her parents think? What would the community think? Mary looked the angel in the eye and asked: "How can this be since I am a virgin?" The angel's reply touched her humility and faith: "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."
This reply must have convinced Mary that this messenger really was from God and that God was serious about this baby stuff. The messenger's last sentence must have helped convince Mary: "For nothing will be impossible with God." Her response was immediate: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Mary's response was faithful cooperation with God's plan for saving the world and everyone in it. Mary said "Yes." to God. She took a step of faith and trusted that God knew what God was doing. Mary trusted God enough to place her life and her future in God's hands.
It is unfortunate that Mary has been virtually ignored in our tradition. She has been pushed to the edges of the story of salvation. But the reality is that Mary plays a very key role in God's work of saving the world. Not only is she the one who bore God's son, she is also the one who nursed, mothered and raised Jesus. Mary helped to form the person whom the man Jesus became. Like any mother, Mary played an integral role in the life of the One who would save the world from the powers of sin and death. Had it not been for Mary, God's plans for Jesus, and you and me, would have been very different. God chose wisely when God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus.
Mary serves as a model of true faith, accepting God's will despite her lack of comprehension and even reservations in relation to the angel's message of God's saving work. Mary is the first disciple. She responded to God's call in her life by saying "Yes" to God. In saying "Yes!" to God's divine initiative, Mary became a living channel of grace for the world. For it was through Mary that God became flesh and lived among us. It was through Mary that God came into the world as one of us. It was through Mary that God came into the world as the Jew from Nazareth, Jesus Christ; the one who lived for the world, the one who suffered for the world, the one who was crucified for the world, and, the one who rose again for the world. All this became possible because of Mary's faith and her willingness to cooperate with God. Because of Mary, we know that grace became flesh and grace is at work in history, among us, and in us.
Finally, Mary is a model of the Church as the people of God who are called to be Christ-bearers in the world. In other words, each of us are called by God to be like Mary. When we look at Mary we can see that God wants to give birth to Christ in each of us. As Christ is born in your heart, you bear him in the world and offer him to others. As Mary bore Christ in the water of her womb, we bear him in our hearts. And, like Mary, God comes to us with the assurance that nothing is impossible with God. With God, our fear and anxiety about the future can be overcome. With God, we can step into the future and deal with whatever it holds for us.