The feast of the Annunciation reminds us that Mary had to let go of all her expectations for the direction her life would take. Every child has hopes and dreams for the future, so I am sure that as a little girl she had many thoughts of what her life as a wife and mother would be like. For Mary, however, those hopes and dreams were always in concert with whatever the Lord would want for her. As she grew, she cultivated her heart to be in a constant ‘state of yes’ to God. She was willing to continually go with the flow of the Holy Spirit, such that when the angel Gabriel approached her, she was not frightened, but rather welcomed him along with the message he bore from the Holy One of Israel. She was, however, startled by how he addressed her: “Hail, full of grace!” This was not because Mary was unfamiliar with the ways of God, but rather it came from having a heart full of humility.
Implicit in both the feasts of St. Joseph and the Annunciation, is the ideal of letting go of our plans in order to follow those of God. To do so is the ultimate sacrifice. It is also the hallmark of those who are holy. It means we have to trust God so radically that we put ourselves completely in His hands, come what may. It is not about fulfilling His will such that we are puppets in the hands of a fickle or whim-driven God. It is about trusting in His love and wisdom, knowing that He sees things from a far different vantage point than the one from which we see things. It is in having the faith to accept that which we do not understand, knowing that God is compassionate, merciful, and kind, and that He knows what is best for us. It means embracing endless mystery and giving up the need to understand. Of course, this is not so easy, but He will help us if we ask. Love is the key here. If we love God and trust His love for us, He will lead us home to Him.
Even Jesus, who was the Son of God, had to go with the flow of His Father. He said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24) He understood that He had to let go of His life, a life I am sure He loved because He was able to see the beauty of the world and all the people in it. But He recognized that He would have to let go of how He embraced life by also embracing the path of suffering, betrayal, and death. He surely could have invoked His own will at any time, a fact which is evidenced in many passages in the gospels, especially the Passion narratives. Perhaps this is what He had to struggle with all along. At the beginning of His ministry Jesus was confronted with the temptation against following the plan of His Father while He was out in the desert. He came to see that only God does not have to acquiesce to going with the flow because He is the flow. Therefore Jesus could follow through with everything asked of Him by the Father because He was able to put His human will aside and choose the flow of His divinity.
May we immerse ourselves in the study of the gospel so that we might learn how to follow Jesus without reserve! May we learn from Mary, praying that we might have radical trust in God! May we ask Mary to intercede for us to have the courage to say yes to God’s call! May we persevere in our acts of penance, our renewed efforts at prayer, and the pathway of generosity throughout Lent and beyond! And may we have the freedom and the trust in God that we may go with the flow, who is God! Let us continue to meet in the heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
The first painting is called Annunciation by Antoniazzo Romano and is found in the Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome.
The icon which comes next is La Sagrada Familia, by Fr. William Hart McNichols. It can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/la-sagrada-familia-william-hart-mcnichols.html
The two photos are mine and were taken in the Black Hills of South Dakota.